Sammy Hagar & Adam Levine
Co-create World’s First “Mezquila”
By Karin Leperi & Mayté Rodríguez Cedillo
Photos by Guy Aroch & Lee Ann Mueller
Over two years ago, on a balmy beach night in Cabo San Lucas, two music-industry friends shared a drink over friendship. The friends were rock ‘n’ roll legend Sammy Hagar, an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Van Halen, and Adam Levine, frontman for Maroon 5 and judge on the ever-popular The Voice.
The crafted drink they shared was created with a combination of tequila and mezcal. Surprisingly, both found the drink to be quite satisfying in structure, flavor, and taste. It proved to be an “aha” moment for both, one that embraced their shared passion and eventually would tap the entrepreneurial blood they both shared alternative to tequila. A unique quality blend of blue and espadin agave, the drink presented with a smoky-sweetness that had firm structure and body. It was the best of both worlds. The duo decided to call it “mezquila” – a premium blend of two distillates resulting in the birth of a new spirit.
The Santo Team
“When Adam and I started tasting the different blends, I knew we had something special that people would love,” said Hagar. “It was only right to get the team back together and share Santo with the world.”
Hagar drew on his previous tequila experience with Cabo Wabo tequila label. For his new endeavor, he knew he needed experienced masters to help bring the venture to fruition.
To build the new brand Santo Mezquila, Hagar brought onboard Jack Daniels and Marco Monroy, two individuals that helped him with the Cabo Wabo tequila success. He also reached out to Juan Eduardo Nuñez, a third-generation master distiller from the El Viejito distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. Infinium Spirits has also joined the team to manage sales and marketing for distribution in selected nationwide markets. It includes launches in Las Vegas, California, New York, Texas and Florida.
On February 9, 2017, after more than two years of honing the craft and taste, the pair introduced the first quality blend of two different agave distillates. The blending was designed to provide a more robust, enhanced tasting for tequila aficionados. Labeled Santo Mezquila, the label parlays complex flavors with herbal notes and a slight floral fruitiness.
“When we came up with that name – mezquila – the whole road opened up,” said Hagar. “We knew what we were going to do. It’s the first mezquila. We’ve invented a new product.”
Yin and Yang of “Mezquila”
Many people have the mistaken notion that tequila is made from cactus; this is simply not true. Tequila, like its cousin mezcal, is made from agave, which is related to the yucca plant and the Joshua tree. (They are perennial succulents and once they flower, they are doomed to die).
The primary difference is that only blue Weber agave is used in the production of tequila. Furthermore, it can only be made in the Tequila region of Mexico while mezcal can be made from any type of agave plant native to Mexico, even those that grown in the wild, though most mezcal is generally made in Oaxaca.
Another big difference relates to the production process. While tequila is generally baked in stone ovens or autoclaves, mezcal distillers bury the mixture in pits with hot rocks. By slow-roasting, a signature smokiness is imparted and infused into the drink, adding a distinguishing robustness and natural charred wood smokiness.
Combine the earthy smoothness and complexity of tequila with the smoky structure of mezcal, and you end up with a drink that is a harmonious blend of Mexico’s two most popular distillates. It’s a hybrid drink that pulls the best from both worlds.
“When we came up with that name – mezquila – the whole road opened up,” said Hagar. “We knew what we were going to do. It’s the first mezquila. We’ve invented a new product. 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. It’s taking tequila to another level. When you blend the two you get a higher spirit, a brand new taste.” Levine adds, “With Santo you get that smooth, full agave, rich tequila flavor with a touch of smoky-sweetness that you can only find with Mezcal – perfect for sipping.”
A love for tequila
The business duo may be excited about their mezquila making a big splash in the world of beverage and spirits, but Hagar confesses to a lifelong love of tequila. After all, “My favorite drink has always been and will always be basically a margarita that I can have many different ways. A starter margarita with fresh lime juice, a simple sweetener, and a good agave product with a little salt on the rim, is marvelous. It doesn’t get much better than that,” Hagar adds, unless its mezquila. “Obviously, the new twist is Santo Mezquila with a splash of blood orange added to the normal recipe along with a dried chili salt mixture on the rim. That’s what has been tickling my tongue lately.”
On the contrary, Levine prefers a simple, unadulterated taste when it comes to tequila. “I love drinking my tequila without anything else. Pure…nothing added. Not even salt!”
A background in spirits
Hagar’s first foray into the world of spirits began when he went on a personal mission to find a tequila, one with consistent quality and taste. One that he would be proud to put a personal label on and sell in his nightclub and cantina in Cabo. It was appropriately named Cabo Wabo and by 1996, he was selling handmade tequila commissioned from a local multi-generational family of tequila makers. In less than a decade, he parlayed his Cabo Wabo Tequila into the second best-selling premium tequila in the United States.
After Hagar sold his interest for a very handsome profit to Campari/Skyy in 2007, he was bit by the Hawaiian bug to conquer the world of island rum. (Hagar has multiple homes in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Maui, Hawaii; and in San Francisco.) While on the island of Maui, he partnered with local expertise to cultivate the best small-batch distilled silver rum. Thus, “Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum” was born, becoming a wild success in its first year. It was named “Best of Show” at the 2012 Las Vegas Nightclub and Bar Show.
After tequila and rum, Hagar was ready for the next logical step in the entrepreneurial world of spirits. That next step happened when he served as celebrity coach on Team Adam for 11th season of The Voice. They hit it off right away and Levine and Hagar have partnered together to market mezquila to the world. He is now a frequent visitor to Mexico. “I love the energy of the Mexican people. One of the reasons I spend so much time there is because of the warmth and positivity we feel from the people,” says Levine.
The two of them have an idea how best to serve mezquila. “When it comes to turning my friends on to Santo Mezquila for the first time, I really prefer to serve it with a temperature around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit and have them taste it straight for the first time,” explains Hagar. “It’s very important to know the basic flavor profile of the spirit you are using when making a cocktail. My process for mezquila or when you’re drinking an agave spirit is to start with a little sea salt on your tongue before your first sip. This sets up your palate. With mezquila, I prefer orange at the end of the tasting process over that of lime.” The result? Complex, full-bodied, smoky, smooth, with a finishing sweetness. That’s Santo Mezquila.