Interview with Sammy Hagar on Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co.
Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co.
If you’re a rock and roll fan, Sammy Hagar needs no introduction. Heck, if you’ve never listened to a Van Halen song in your life but you’re a fan of fine spirits, Sammy Hagar still needs no introduction. Sammy Hagar, also known as the Red Rocker, is a rock star, fine spirits entrepreneur, restaurateur, philanthropist, and so much more. After the success of several spirits brands, Sammy Hagar moved into the world of ready-to-drink cocktails with his company Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co., bringing his fresh insight and creative spark to the category.
Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. comes in four flavors, Pineapple Splash, Tangerine Dream, Cherry Kola Chill, and Island Pop. Each of his flavors has award-winning Puerto Rico-made rum as their spirits base and features all-natural ingredients, a low-calorie count, and a 5.5% alcohol-by-volume. We were lucky enough to sit down for a phone interview with Sammy Hagar to discuss the inspiration behind Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co., the flavors, and more.
The Inspiration Behind Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co.
What inspired you to start Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co.?
Well, it was during COVID when I had nothing to do. And I’m one of those kinds of people that have to be creating. I have to be either writing a song or creating a new brand or something. When I get really bored, I change the menus on my restaurants for Cabo Wabo and Sammy’s Beach Bar Grills. I train or write a cookbook. For instance, I wrote a cocktail book that just came out recently, Sammy’s Greatest Hits from Behind the Bar. It’s just one of those things.
Sure enough, what do my kids say? “Oh yeah, Papa, why don’t you make something better?”
It was a family challenge.
So, during COVID, the only people around were my family. [My kids,] my two sons and two daughters, were drinking RTDs and hanging out around the house a lot. They had all of these RTDs in the refrigerator, and I would taste them. I’d say, “What the hell is this?” I’m really into a good drink, quality beverages and quality spirits. So, I don’t want to tell you the brand name, but I tasted one, and I went, “This is just crap, man.” I couldn’t even swallow it hardly. I was like, “Oh my God, what are you guys doing?”
Sure enough, what do my kids say? “Oh yeah, Papa, why don’t you make something better?”
It was a family challenge. I said, “Okay.”
Starting the Brand
I only get into a business if I think I can do better than the competition. Otherwise, I don’t bother. I don’t make fine wines even though I drink fine wines more than tequila or rum. But I don’t make wine because you got Château Lafite Rothschild, Cheval Blanc, and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti out there. I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I don’t make those things. But when somebody makes a lousy RTD and sticks it in my refrigerator, I go right to work. And that’s why I decided to do it. I said, “I can make a better product than this.”
And when I did it, by the way, they were only about three [RTD brands] on the market. I do everything myself. So, I started taking notes of what flavors I wanted. And I started thinking about packaging, and I went to my Beach Bar Rum people, and everyone said at that time, “No, you can’t use spirits. You can’t use rum. It’s going to be way too expensive.”
And I said, “Well, I don’t care. I’m about quality. So, if my price is higher…”
“Oh,” they said, “It’ll be so much higher in the taxes and blah, blah, blah.”
And I hesitated.
Experimenting with the Alcohol Base
I first made them out of beer base, and I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t like that, that malt-flavor [sic]. And so, I thought, well, I’ll try just a regular alcohol base, which they call a wine base, which is sugar-based. It was all right but not the same thing. I said, “You know, I want a bubbly spirit. I want to put rum in this thing and make it really elevate the whole thing.” Because, see, when you put alcohol from rum, vodka, gin, or even whiskey, it makes a good RTD [sic].
By the time I had it perfected and ready to launch, there were a million of them on the market. But, you know, I still think I have the best one.
So, I decided to use my rum. I wanted it to be sparkling. And I tried to keep the calories down to match everyone else. I went with the flavors, and by the time I got the whole thing together, all of a sudden, people started telling me, “Oh, guess what? So-and-so is coming out with a spirit base [RTD]. Everybody’s moving into spirit bases now.” I was already ahead of the game, but because I do it all myself, and I just took it step-by-step, and it was during COVID, everything was slowed down. So, I would send my flavors in; they would send them back to me, and I’d taste them and say to my flavor guys, “Eh, we need a little more of this, a little more of that.” I was perfecting it.
By the time I got it perfected and ready to launch, there were a million of them on the market. But, you know, I still think I have the best one. And for me, it’s all about quality and not the price point. Maybe I make less per case than some of the other guys, but I try to keep my prices down to be somewhat competitive. I use agave syrup to sweeten them. I use real flavors, like in the Pineapple Jalapeño, I use real jalapeños and real pineapple. Everything’s right. Had to up the fizz quality to get that little bit of fizz up your nose thing when you first take a drink. It gives you a little bang, little pop for your money.
So, what was the process of selecting the flavors and the twists that you have on each flavor?
Well, you know, I just thought about what I like. The only advice I can give anybody that wants to create something original is to go with what you like. I wanted to make something that I really, truly enjoyed. So, when I was living in Hawaii, around the time I started Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, I experimented a lot with the fruits that grew on my property. I had every kind of tropical fruit on the planet there. So I would go and mix the fruit with pure white rum. And I would just try to think of good flavors that would go together.
The Flavors: Pineapple Splash
I found that spice and pineapple are a fantastic combination. Why? I don’t know. I’m just telling you that when most people taste it, they go, “Wow. You know, that’s really a nice combo.” So, I was putting pineapple and jalapeños (and habaneros at times) in my rum and leaving it to soak overnight. And it was just really cool. So, the first thing I thought was, Well, I’ll just sparkle that [pineapple and jalapeño combination] up, you know, just make it sparkling. And then you have Pineapple Splash, a sparkling pineapple jalapeño rum cocktail. I had already known that it was magic.
Read our flavor review of Pineapple Splash.
The Flavors: Tangerine Dream
So, I was thinking, as a kid, what did I want more than anything? What could I not get enough of? And it was those Creamsicles. You know? The orange popsicle with the vanilla ice cream in the middle. I could eat like 50 of those bars, man. I could eat those things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I thought, You know, they’re so damn good, and nobody ever makes anything like that anymore. So, I chose that. Instead of orange, I used tangerine because that elevates it a little bit. Tangerines have a little more identity than just the common orange.
Read our flavor review of Tangerine Dream.
The whole key to this is that they’re sparkling. They’re like champagne. They explode in your mouth.
The Flavors: Cherry Kola Chill
Then the third one was a cherry cola. I used to go into this soda fountain on my way home from school. I used to go there and sweep up in the back of this drug store. They’d let me sweep up and break down boxes and stuff, and then they’d give me some money and a cherry cola. They’d make cherry colas from the soda fountain where they put the cola syrup in there, sparkling water, and a little drop of cherry juice. Back then, a Cherry Coke was the coolest thing in the world. So, I decided to make a cherry cola, and it’s got a little spice in it too.
Read our flavor review of Cherry Kola Chill.
The Flavors: Island Pop
Sammy Hagar: Last but not least, we all remember Hawaiian Punch. When you’d go to your friend’s house for his birthday party, they’d have a big old bowl of punch. And there was always some guy that would spike it. You know, he came with a little bottle of vodka, and everyone is drinking this spiked punch. I thought, Yeah, spiked punch. What a great idea. I made Island Pop with passion fruit, orange, and pineapple and all those flavors that, as I said, I had on my property.
Read our flavor review of Island Pop.
I’d tasted all of these flavors before, but I just didn’t think about having it sparkling. The whole key to this is that they’re sparkling. They’re like champagne. They explode in your mouth. And they’re low calorie, 130 calories. And that’s pretty good. The agave syrup really helps because agave gives you flavor but not as much sugar calorie content as sugar. Sugar has no flavor. It’s just sweet. Agave has flavor. So, it adds a dimension of flavor to these. It makes it more like a cocktail.
Creativity at its Finest
Seltzer Nation: What drives your entrepreneurial spirit?
What drives me is creativity. I’m an artist, you know, I write music. And how do you write a song? Well, I can’t even tell you. It’s like a gift. It just comes to you out of the ether all of a sudden. I was sitting around playing guitar, and all of a sudden, I [think], Oh, that’s a nice change. You know? You start plucking around, and another note comes, and another idea comes, and pretty soon, the lyrics come. So that’s the way I am. That’s the way my mind operates.
I learned with Cabo Wabo when I created that brand. I was watching a guy walk down the road, and he was drunk in the morning. He had one shoe on, his clothes ripped, bouncing off the barbwire fence out into the middle of the street, which was so narrow, I couldn’t get around him. I’m looking at this guy. He’s doing a fricking Cabo Wabo. That was in Cabo. And I thought, Oh, what a great name. Boom! The light comes on. And I realized that one idea could turn into hundreds of millions of dollars in value. I don’t ever forget it. Once I did that. So, if I get a good idea, I just want to see it happen. I love the ride. I could care less about selling it in the end or making all the money in the end.
The only thing money is good for is helping other people now in my life. So, I’m motivated to be successful because I don’t want to lose. Who the hell wants to start a business that fails? Nope. Not interested. So, I still want to win. And by winning now, you get a jackpot. You get this pot of gold. And I’ve learned to give that pot of gold back to communities.
Thank you so much for your time today.
Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. supports the Surfrider Foundation and other charities that are dedicated to cleaning up our beaches and oceans. Pineapple Splash, Tangerine Dream, Cherry Kola Chill, and Island Pop are available in single-flavor four packs of 12 oz tall cans. You can purchase Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. products online or at a retailer near you in select states.
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