Sammy Hagar Does the Cabo Wabo


Lick a little lime, throwin' down: Sammy Hagar tastes tequila.

“The stupidest idea in the world can be the most successful one,” Mill Valley resident Sammy Hagar—that guy formerly known as the lead singer of Van-Halen—explained to me the other day, in reference to the origin of the term “cabo wabo.”

It was Tuesday and Hagar was leading me, along with Melissa Goldstein, 7x7’s arts and entertainment editor, in a sampling of his line of highend tequilas named just that—at the rock-and-roll time of 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Cabo Wabo is also the name of Hagar’s very popular cantina and club in Cabo San Lucas, as well as a less-popular song by Van Halen. (I think Hagar’s lyrics show a nack for food writing: mescal right from the bottle/salt shaker, little lick a lime/ ohhh/throwin down, down tryin to reach the bottom/where the agave worm, well he’s mine all mine/come on, crash on the beach/you know I wanna make love in the sea.)

Back to the stupidest idea in the world. According to Hagar, the name of his tequila/cantina empire came about one Sunday morning in Cabo. “I was driving to my favorite taco stand and this local guy was walking along, wasted. Falling into the barbed-wire fence and then veering back. His shirt was ripped up and he was all bloody. I said to my friend, ‘Look at this guy! He’s doing the “cabo wabo!’” His friend laughed, as did Eddie Van-Halen when Hagar called him with lyrics to the song (over the phone Eddie proceeded to “noodle” out some guitar to the words).

Me, Sammy and Melissa after a little tequila in the afternoon.

Thus an empire—and another career for Hagar—was born. Sitting at the bar at the offices of Skyy Spirits (last year, Hagar sold 80 percent stake for 80 million to Skyy), Hagar proudly sniffed and swirled all four of the Cabo Wabo tequilas, from the agave-grassy blanco to the smooth $250 Cabo Uno, a beauty which is aged for 38 months and almost has a whiskey-like aroma (for this, he told his tequila maker to make it as if there were “no rules, as if you had all the money in the world”).

Hagar might be in awe of his Cabo Uno, but he likes the blanco for mixing. “I make a bloody Mary out of it,” he said, adding tomato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, white and black pepper, a touch of celery salt, of course, ice—all served in a glass rimmed in lime, cayenne pepper and fine sea salt. Which, come to think of it, would make a good hangover remedy for the sad-sack that inspired the brand name. Hagar said he wishes he could find that guy again—if nothing else, so he can give him something back. “I’ll buy that guy a pad and a car,” he said.
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