Rock musician Sammy Hagar is ready for his tequila encore.
But this time he has a playing partner in Maroon 5 frontman and The Voice star Adam Levine. And the duo are bringing their own twist to the burgeoning spirits category: a tequila blended with mezcal.
Priced at about $55 a bottle, Santo Mezquila is an 80-proof blend of the two spirits, both of which are distilled from agave. Tequila is actually a type of mezcal made from blue agave, while mezcal can be made from other forms of the desert plant.
The two spirits are made differently, with agave for tequila baked and often shredded, for mezcal it’s usually roasted and subsequently pressed, which gives mezcal a flavor distinct from tequila. Mezcal may be a popular hipster order at the bar, but some can find the taste overbearing. “After three or four shots, you feel like you smoked a cigar,” Hagar said.
When Hagar mentioned to Levine his plan to bring a new mezcal to market, the pop star was more interested in tequila. While drinking together in the celebrity destination of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they mixed some tequila and mezcal together and found they liked the taste. “When we came up with that name — mezquila — the whole road opened up,” Hagar said. “We know what we’re going to do. It’s the first mezquila. We’ve invented a new product.”
Hagar approached the Mexican distillery that worked with him to make Cabo Wabo Tequila, a brand he founded 1996, and after several experimental blends, they arrived at a taste that pleased them. “It comes on like tequila and you smell a little bit of smoke in it, but is toned down to where you get a sweet finish,” Hagar said. “It’s taking tequila to another level. When you blend the two you get a higher spirit, a brand new taste. ”
Hagar and Levine will take help launch Santo Mezquila in L.A. today. Over the next month or so, it arrives in Las Vegas, California, New York, Texas and Florida.
It’s for good reason that Hagar wanted to get back into the agave booze business. Tequila sales outpaced overall spirits industry growth in 2016, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
Revenue from supplier sales of spirits to wholesalers rose 4.5% to $25.2 billion in 2016, however, tequila sales rose even more, 7.5%. Growth in high-end tequila (brands such as El Jimador and Sauza Hornitos) and super-premium tequila (Patron, Avion) rose 15% and 7%, respectively. Overall, tequila sales to retailers accounted for about $8 billion of the nearly $80 billion spirit industry in 2016.
Many celebrities have joined Hagar in the tequila game, from Justin Timberlake, who co-founded the Sauza 901 brand, to George Clooney, who created Casamigos with entertainment entrepreneur Rande Gerber.
“You can’t make a tequila now, there’s so much competition,” said Hagar, who sold his stake in Cabo Wabo in two transactions, in 2007 and 2009, to the Campari Group for nearly $100 million. Three years ago, he founded Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum.
In the past, Levine had been approached to endorse various alcohol brands, yet, “nothing really spoke to me,” said Levine, who bonded with Hagar in Cabo and on the last season of The Voice when Hagar served as as a mentor for his team. “I believe there’s no one better, aside from the fact we get along famously and instantaneously, to jump on board with than this guy. He kind of paved the way for so many people.”
Hagar built a business life beyond his musical career as a platinum-selling solo artist and more than a decade with Van Halen. He owns or is a partner in eight restaurants and is about to start the second series of his own TV show, Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar on AXS TV on March 5.
This season, his guests will include John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge, Toby Keith, John Mellencamp, Mick Fleetwood, James Hetfield and Billy Gibbons. “This is a different side of entertainment for me,” he said. “I shut up and listen now.”