Marin’s Sammy Hagar is not the kind to just sit still. Whether it is his solo musical career, or his tenure with the bands Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot or the Circle, or his liquor industry career, Mr. Hagar still just can’t seem to drive 55 like the rest of us. So, it should have come as no surprise that when he sold his monstrously successful tequila brand, Cabo Wabo, in 2007 (for a reported $80 million), he immediately had another plan in place.
“I only sold the tequila,” he says. “Gruppo Campari allowed me to keep the cantinas and build more in the future. It’s good for the brand having cantinas, and I will always be involved with Cabo Wabo. It was my first restaurant and spirits brand. I am proud of it and I feel very close to it.”
Rum was the Red Rocker’s new direction. “The things I learned from Cabo Wabo tequila have all been applied to my new Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum,” he says. “It’s pretty much the same business, just two different products.”
Hagar had previously opened three Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grills, one in St. Louis, one in Las Vegas and one in Atlantic City (which was destroyed during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy), before launching his rum brand in 2011. Its first product was a white rum, followed by a “Red Head” macadamia nut rum and finally a Maui Kola Spiced rum. Along the way Hagar also reached out to an old partner of sorts, recently inviting rocker/actor Rick Springfield (who gave Hagar his first top ten hit with his version of Hagar’s “I’ve done everything for you,” in 1981) along for the ride. Springfield recently told People magazine: “Our first collaboration was a home run, so we thought why not try it again.” Why not indeed!
We recently reached out to Mr. Hagar for his thoughts on that rum, it’s economy, and rum’s new cachet.
JB) Whiskey and tequila are typically most associated with hard rock music, your oeuvre. When did you develop a taste for rum?
SH) Rum has always been in my top three cocktails: a margarita, a mojito, and a mai tai. I do love a glass of aged rum every now and then. But for me – unlike tequila and whiskey- rum is a cocktail spirit.
JB) Vodka is the number one selling spirit in the United States and whiskey is what everybody seems to be talking about. Why make rum now?
SH) When I started making SBBR, it was to elevate rum in people’s minds. Show what rum could be and maybe even get people to try drinking white rum on the rocks. Sort of like what I did with tequila.
JB) Tequila can only be made in Mexico; rum can be made anywhere. Your rum is made in Puerto Rico. Was making a product in the United States a factor in your decision?
SH) Originally SBBR was made in Hawaii on the island of Maui. It was pure cane sugar rum. I ran into supply problems because sugarcane is no longer a valuable commodity on the islands. Unfortunately, condos, strip malls or multimillion dollar homes, seem to do a little better (ha ha). So the “Cain” got so expensive that my white rum was going to have to get into the $60 a bottle range and when you got the competition selling theirs for $10, it just wasn’t gonna work economically. So, I had to move to Puerto Rico where they make really good rum.
JB) Are your rums made from sugar cane, sugar cane juice or molasses?
SH) Originally it was made with pure cane sugar from Hawaii. I went with molasses so I could keep it in a competitive price range, and truthfully, it tastes more like rum when it’s made in that style, because that’s what most people are used to. Also, when you’re mixing it with other ingredients like citrus, mint, almond and vanilla flavors, you’re not really utilizing what you would pay for to have pure cane sugar rum. I have refined my distilling process to get a really clean molasses-based product.
JB) Are you considering making an aged rum?
SH) I have a small batch of maybe 1,000 bottles worth of a nine-year-old Maui pure cane sugar rum that I’m experimenting with. It’s out of the barrels and being held in stainless to stop the aging process because it is absolutely phenomenal at this age. I may blend it to make more available. But this stuff is going to have to be like $500 a bottle because it’s way too special.
JB) What makes your rum different than say Bacardi (another Puerto Rican rum) or even Havana Club, the classic Cuban rum (originally made by the Bacardi family)?
SH) Like any other product I make, whether it be music, the food in my restaurants, or my spirits brands, I make the product to my taste. To me the only way you can stand out and be original is to have one person’s 100% opinion of what it should be. I do not take into consideration what other people might think, or what other trends are. I strictly go by whether I think it’s as good as it can be. I can pick my products out of a blind tasting and I can certainly tell my voice when I hear it on the radio. That’s always been my method of creativity.
JB) Your flavored rums are not typical rum flavors. What made you pick macadamia nut in particular?
SH) I pick my flavors by what I can taste in my mind, then we create it and see if it tastes the way I envisioned it. I happen to love macadamia nuts especially with ice cream. So, you think white rum, with hints of vanilla and coconut. What’s missing? Nuts! So, I made it sweeter at 30% alcohol and more concentrated. It’s like dessert with nuts on top. Can you think of anything better? And you get your buzz on at the same time.
JB) Can we expect any rum related songs a la “Mas Tequila”?
SH) I had a song on my Sammy Hagar and Friends record, four or five years ago, titled “All we need is an island.” There’s a line in there: “All we need is an island, a hammock that swings, a tall cool one, a whole lotta sun, and a belly full of rum.” But you know, I can’t write a new hit for every damn thing I do. I wish I had that many hits!
JB) What is your favorite rum cocktail?
SH) Without a doubt, a fresh ingredient, handmade, Mojito.
JB) To sum up?
SH) SBBR is a lifestyle brand. It is the side of me that likes to go to Mexico or Hawaii and spend as much time on the beach as possible. It’s a no collar brand, it’s about bathing suits, beautiful weather, boats, marinas, harbors, coves, sea, sun, salt, and sex. Beach, beach, beach, and more beach. It is a way to help you create your own little piece of paradise. Whether in your backyard swimming pool, or by a creek, a lake, hell, even a good lawn hose and a sprinkler on a summer day works for me. Just enjoy responsibly.
Sammy’s Beach Bar Rums retail for around $25. More information and delivery options can be found here: www.sammysbeachbarrum.com