The Rise of RTDs: The Rock Star Treatment

By Ashley Bray

We’re closing out our series on ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails with a look at rocker and Cabo Wabo tequila creator Sammy Hagar’s take on the trend with his newly launched Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. sparkling rum cocktails. Available in four flavors, the canned cocktails are 130 calories, 5.5% ABV, sweetened with agave nectar, and made with all natural flavors and no added color.

sammy hagar cocktail
Photo: Zan Passante

After being underwhelmed by the flavor of a spiked seltzer left behind by his kids, Hagar was inspired to enter the RTD market for the same reasons he created Cabo Wabo tequila and his Beach Bar Rum—he wanted to produce an offering that was better than anything else on the market.

“Whatever I do I want to be really good at it,” says Hagar. “For my fans, I always want to make the best record I can make, do the best performance I can, and serve the best food at my cantinas or my restaurants.”

Hagar was heavily involved in the creation from the start, and he brought on his team of flavor mixologists to lead the process. The RTD market was still in its infancy stages at this point, with only a few selections on shelves. Hagar and his team started by testing out a beer base, wine base, and sugar base—all of which he threw out.

“I thought, ‘You know, I make great rum, so why don’t I just put my high-end rum in here?’” says Hagar.

He immediately met opposition from his team, who pointed out that no one was using a spirits base, that it would be too expensive to make, and the price would be too high.

But Hagar pushed back, arguing that this was the way to make the top-shelf RTD he was envisioning. So they ran with the Beach Bar Rum base and came up with four flavors that worked well with rum:

Pineapple Splash: The slight sweetness of pineapple, followed by the kick of jalapeño.

Island Pop: The fruity flavors of cherry, pineapple, and citrus, pack a Hawaiian punch.

Cherry Kola Chill: That classic soda fountain flavor of cherry cola with a hint of spice.

Tangerine Dream: A refreshing blend of tangerine and vanilla cream; like the classic creamsicle.

sammy hagar
Photo: Zan Passante

All four flavors are sweetened with agave syrup versus sugar. “When I was using plain sugar, you would have to have used so much that it’s got too many calories, or it’s not sweet enough,” explains Hagar. “And it adds a great flavor. You get that little bit of an agave taste in there; it’s very subtle, but it’s in there. It’s there instead of sugar, so the sweetness comes up a little more with less calories.”

Calories were another area that Hagar struggled to get right. Initially, he was aiming for the 99-100 calories sweet spot that are the hallmark of beverages in this space. “You either can’t get enough alcohol or you can’t get enough flavor at 100 calories,” says Hagar, who notes that lower calorie drinks often don’t hold up well to ice either. “You take one of these 99 calorie jobs and pour it over ice, you might as well be pouring water over it.”

Hagar finally threw out the calorie counting until he found a flavor he liked, at the ABV he wanted, and that also held up to ice. The canned cocktails ending up clocking in at 130 calories and 5.5% ABV, and yes, that 5.5 is a nod to Hagar’s ’80s hit ‘I Can’t Drive 55.’

So far, Hagar has been enjoying the ride of his most recent venture. “The creative process, to me, is what it’s all about. It’s getting there that’s the most fun,” he says. “I didn’t just throw my name on it. I started from the beginning—the flavor profile, the alcohol content, the amount of sugar—everything that built this thing up to be what represents me and my name and my brands.

“I’m so excited about this. I have never launched a brand and did as much work as I’m doing on this because I want it so bad to be successful.”

Hagar is also putting in the work on the promotion side of things. “There’s a lot of competition out there. I know a lot of these other guys are spending $10 to $20 million a year promoting,” says Hagar. “I can’t compete with that. So what do I do? I throw a party. I go on tour. I play for my fans, and I put it in the venues. That’s the way I make my noise, and I can compete that way.”

In fact, he made history during the official launch event for Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. by playing the first-ever rooftop performance overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. Together with his supergroup, The Circle, Hagar wowed fans with a sunset performance from the second story rooftop of BEER PARK at Paris Las Vegas beneath the replica of the Eiffel Tower and across from the Bellagio fountains. Following the performance, he made his way next door to Cabo Wabo Cantina for an afterparty, where he passed out the sparkling rum cocktails.

sammy hagar canned cocktail
Sammy Hagar performs on a rooftop on the Las Vegas strip. Photo: Getty Images.

Hagar is taking the party on the road in December with four stops in Texas as part of “A Toast To Texas” tour presented by Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. “It’s about the whole experience—fans can sample my new Beach Bar Cocktail Co. sparkling rum cocktails, along with some Santo Tequila and Beach Bar Rum, while listening to The Circle jam,” he says.

Aside from lining liquor shelves, Hagar sees a place for Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. in the on-premise, as well. For one, he believes the flavors and lower ABV make the canned cocktails great for mixing. Hagar suggests adding Cointreau to the Creamsicle flavor or an extra shot of white rum to any of the four varieties. He also emphasizes the importance of garnishes.

“If you’re not going to drink it in a can, and you’re going to pour it over some ice, just make sure you garnish it with a wedge of something. A little squeeze of lime or something,” he says, recommending sliced jalapeno for the Pineapple Splash and maraschino cherries for the Cherry Kola Chill. “Just kick it up, freshen it up. It’s made for that.”

Another benefit for the on-premise, especially with the ongoing pandemic, is the ease and safety of serving it in a can, which requires fewer touchpoints for the bartender and guest.

And with the ongoing labor shortage also plaguing the on-premise, quality canned cocktails like Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. offer an easy solution. Bartenders can simply serve the can as is, or doctor it up with garnishes and other ingredients, as suggested above.

Currently, Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. sparkling rum cocktails are available in California, Nevada, and Texas with more states coming soon. Hagar also hints at new flavors to come, but right now he’s just happy getting the word out and spreading the beachy, island vibes of his new brand.

Did you miss the other articles in our Rise of RTDs series? Check them out here:
On-Premise Growth Factors
BeTini Spirits
Coit Spirits