Location: Back room of Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant and bar specializing in tequila, between 26th and 27th streets on New York’s Park Avenue.
Atmosphere: Hot, hot appetizers and hot blondes—rock’n’roll-groupie-caliber hot blondes—everywhere.
Enter Sammy Hagar, fresh from his Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame induction the night before. Most of the Van Halen standouts hadn’t deigned to show, but who cares about those nancies? The Red Rocker, along with bassist Michael Anthony, is here to work the crowd at the unveiling of the extension to his Cabo Wabo tequila line, Cabo Uno. In a candid frame of mind, he offers to someone curious about his legendary 10,000-bottle wine collection that he’ll “say anything, just ask.”
“What about the first time you got drunk on tequila? Will you talk about that”
“What about it?”
“Did they find you face down in a pool of vomit, not your own?”
“No, but I was 15 and you know that cheap tequila that came in the long thin bottle….?
“You ate the worm?”
“I damn near ate the whole bottle.”
OK, that’s a testimonial. But then he’s off. Hagar’s organoleptic standards have clearly changed in the ensuing 45 years. Tonight he’s rubbing elbows with pals Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali, chef at New York’s Babo Ristorante e Enoteca.
By the time Haggar reaches the back of the room it’s time to introduce the Cabo Uno, an extra anejo tequila, one the category’s newly designated spirits age more than three years. But first Sammy waxes vividly on his long relationship with tequila and—yes—his teenage impropriety and the resulting intimate relationship with a porcelain appliance.
Despite the incident, it seems the Red Rocker was undaunted and made a tequila journey that moved from rot gut to quality blanco tequilas to aged spirits. Along the way, he started Cabo Wabo (named when he witnessed a local in his beloved Cabo San Lucas, Mexico wobbling as he returned from a night of tequila in a cantina. Hagar dubbed it—and his brand—the Cabo Wabo.
The culmination of tequila sojourn is the Cabo Uno, made from select double-distilled spirits and aged in American white oak barrels for until he thought it perfect: 38 months that is. The result is an elegant liquor that smacks of Bourbon on the nose and in the front palate, with notes of vanilla and maple candy. At the finish is the tell-tale agave taste that announces it as tequila even as it is leaving. Sip it and that note is easy to miss. Gulp it and the agave comes right out.
Hagar mightn’t be doing much gulping anymore, but he did attest to maybe having a few too many the night before. Then again it’s not every day you join the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.