Sammy Hagar may be best known as the former front man of hard-rock band Van Halen, but he’s also the ultimate party host. “When I came onstage, I used to say, ‘This isn’t a concert; this is an event. This is a party,’ ” says Hagar, 74. He’s taken that approach to heart with his new cocktail bartending book, Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits: 85 Personal Favorites from the Red Rocker (March 2022). “I know how to throw a pretty good party. And I thought, I want to share this with people.”
Hagar is no stranger to making strong cocktails: He owns the restaurant/bar chain Cabo Wabo Cantina and two alcohol lines — Sammy's Beach Bar Rum and Santo Spirits tequila.
Fraioli recalls being at Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico a few years ago and enjoying the drinks so much that he had a light bulb moment and realized that Hagar needed his own cocktail cookbook. It was hard to pin down the busy musician, who was either touring or cutting an album, until the pandemic took hold and he suddenly found himself at home with more free time.
The collaboration between the two authors proved successful. “[James] narrowed down every drink and measured it out perfectly until it was right. Because I just wing it. Every time I make a cocktail, it’s a little bit different,” says Hagar. “I say, ‘Oh, shoot I put too much lime in it. Oh, didn’t put enough tequila.’ And he just narrowed it down to where it’s like science.”
Fraoili worked with a team of Hagar’s crew from across his restaurants and spirits brands to develop recipes. Hagar, though, was heavily involved, reviewing each beverage that went into the book (and happily testing them out). He also shared ideas along the way. “I think it was Christmas at one point, and I got a text from him at 10 o’clock in the evening of, ‘Oh, we got to have this one in the book. I just made this drink. It has a lot of these special ingredients.,’ ” Fraoili recalls of the time that Hagar texted him about the Red Saint, a tropical holiday tipple. With a Christmas-appropriate red hue, the drink is a combination of tequila, rum, lime juice, orange liqueur and tangerine juice; a cinnamon sugar rim adds flair.
The book is divided into sections that represent places that Hagar has lived or spent significant time in, including Las Vegas, Mexico, Hollywood and Hawaii. “It’s really neat to take readers on these four different locations with different styles, because as you go through the book, Hawaii is very rum-based, Mexico is very tequila-based, Vegas is a compilation of everything, and so is Hollywood,” Fraoili says. “So it was really neat to embrace these four unique lifestyles, which are very reflective of Sammy.”
Along with the recipes, Hagar shares tidbits about his time in these places and moments with friends. For example, he pays tribute to his departed friend Vinnie Paul, the former drummer of Pantera, with an eponymous cocktail of tequila, ancho reyes ancho chile liqueur, lime and grapefruit juices, and simple syrup. Sip it while listening to Pantera’s “Mouth of War.”
It’s no surprise that music plays a big role in Hagar’s book. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is happy to make recommendations of songs to pair with his creative cocktails. In the “Tinseltown Twists” section, Hagar recounts his time in Hollywood and suggests that the reader play tunes by Los Angeles bands like Guns N’ Roses, Rage Against the Machine and (of course) Van Halen. In the Hawaii part, he highlights the gentle tunes of Hawaiian native Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.
In a way, Hagar’s interest in the world of booze mirrored his interest and growth in music. He didn’t really get into alcohol until his late 20s, he says, when someone introduced him to fine wine on a visit to England. “When you first start out doing anything, whether it’s music or a chef, you start out with something you like. I like to play rock music. So you play rock music your whole life, and as you get better and better and better, then you start looking at jazz and looking at country and looking at folk music and trying to be a more versatile artist in every respect.” Eventually, he became a connoisseur of tequila, once he realized it goes beyond the cheap stuff that people throw back at college bars. “When I tasted a hundred-percent-agave tequila, it just made me keep digging, keep digging. And then I started experimenting with drinks that taste good,” says Hagar. “When I opened up the Cabo Wabo, I wanted to have some really cool cocktails. Not just a great margarita but a great mojito.”
With his cocktail book, he hopes to help readers find that liquid happiness that he’s shared with others over the years. Hagar also considers this to be a how-to manual for parties. “Even as much experience as I have, whenever you throw a party, you’re a little bit nervous,” he observes. Everyone gets jittery when hosting a party — where should you set up the food? What should you serve? — and rock stars are no exception. In the book, he lays out everything from what glassware to what accessories one needs for the perfect soirée.
Even after becoming expert enough to put out a cocktail book, Hagar is on a mission to tweak his bartending skills. “I’m still migrating towards perfection,” he says. His favorite drink is the classic margarita: lime juice, simple syrup, orange liqueur and tequila. He’s also recently started adding a bit of lemon juice and serves the drink in a martini glass, for a smaller portion.
Hagar’s excited about sharing his cocktail passion with the world through a book that he hopes will be passed down for generations, long after he’s gone. “It can carry the party because somebody has to throw the party,” says Hagar. “Parties just don’t happen. And so this book tells you how to throw the party and how to enjoy yourself at it.”
Make It a Mocktail
A number of the recipes in Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits can be turned into zero-proof drinks. The Pineapple Pina Colada and the Pomegranate Mojito were handpicked for AARP by coauthor James O. Fraioli. “Those are terrific,” he says. “I think bars serve those as mocktails. And those are two that all you have to do is omit the booze.”
- 1 ounce Monin Pomegranate Syrup
- 3 fresh lime wedges
- 5 fresh mint leaves
- 1½ ounces Sammy’s Beach Bar Platinum Rum
- ½ ounce soda water
- Garnish: Fresh mint sprig and lime wedge
In a cocktail shaker, add the pomegranate syrup, limes and mint leaves. Using a muddler, gently (yet firmly) muddle the ingredients. Add the rum and fill the shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with the soda water, and garnish with a fresh mint sprig and lime wedge.
Pineapple Pina Colada
- 1½ ounces Santo Blanco Tequila
- 2 ounces Coco López Piña Colada Mix
- 1½ ounces fresh pineapple juice
- Garnish: 2 fresh lime wheels and a chunk of fresh pineapple
Fill a bar or kitchen blender with ice, and add the tequila, piña colada mix and pineapple juice. Blend until smooth and creamy, and pour into a coupe or margarita glass. Garnish with fresh lime wheels and a fresh pineapple chunk.
Guava Martini (featuring Santo Blanco Tequila)
- 1½ ounces Santo Blanco Tequila
- 1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
- 1 ounce guava juice
- Garnish: Fresh lime wheel, dusted in Tajín
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the tequila, pineapple juice and guava juice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with a fresh lime wheel dusted in Tajín.
Extracted from Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits: 85 Personal Favorites from the Red Rocker, by Sammy Hagar and James O. Fraioli (Skyhorse Publishing and Culinary Book Creations).
Renew your membership today and save 25% on your next year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.