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Sammy Hagar's tequila paradise - By - January 17, 2007 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Sammy Hagar's tequila paradise

Working in Marin, you see a lot of celebrities. For example, I once saw Andre Agassi buying a Christmas tree. My Sean Penn sightings are numerous — we eat breakfast at the same place. Then there is James Hetfield, who drops his daughter off to preschool the same time each week, pulling up in his metallic green '50s Chevy and gingerly walking her through all the other mommies and children.

The first time I saw these people, it didn't register with me who they were exactly. My brain sent out an impulse of recognition, and then the real work began in earnest, shuffling and reshuffling my card catalog of neuron transfers until I figured out that I didn't used to babysit for them, or go to high school with them, or work with them. “Ahh,” you say to yourself, “That's fill-in-the-blank!”

But there is one Marin celebrity whom I knew right off the bat; there was, like, no higher brain function required when I saw him. Which is ironic, because the same can be said for listening to his bands. I got out of my car at the gas station, and there was Sammy Hagar, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, next to a tiny sports car, filling up his tank. Sammy Hagar is one of a small handful of Republicans that I really like. I mean, what's not to like? He's a rock 'n' roll Muppet, and I just want to stick my hand up his shorts and put on a show.

He's also a self-made man, in the spirit of true Teddy Roosevelt Republicanism. He tapped into the tequila market at the perfect time with his Cabo Wabo brand and franchise, when small boutique companies like Herradura were being bought up by the biggies for more than $800 million dollars. I'm happy for him, but I think something a little more sinister was at work there. Let's look at the facts. Slowly, over time, Sammy has traded in his trademark red leather and whiskey vibe for baggy shorts, tropical shirts, and margarita breath. This, coincidentally, occurred at around the same time that Jimmy Buffett got sober. Are you thinking what I am thinking? That whatever wraithlike being that had inhabited Buffett and forced him to waste away in Margaritaville, dressed like a stoned American tourist, eventually abandoned its host and entered Sammy Hagar? Yes, Hagar is being possessed by El Diablo de Jalisco, a grotesque spirit that invades its host and replicates, causing the occupied to repeatedly shout “Mas tequila!” and drive over 55.

When I was at Sammy's restaurant/tequila lounge, Tres Agaves, I never did hear anyone yell “Mas tequila!” That's probably because the crowd was all over 40, freshly off of their jobs in advertising, and on the make. We sat at the end of the bar on some cute lil' stools and examined the tequila menu. I don't know squat about the Mexican liquor, so it all sort of danced across the page for me. I asked the bartender which one tasted like Cuervo Gold, because I like Cuervo Gold, and I received a mini lesson in tequila. It seems like in order to work there, you have to go to tequila school and become what the natives call a “Taquilero.” At any rate, the staff at this place is fantastic, from the barkeeps to the busboys. We ordered guacamole and before we could even say thank you, a guy was walking toward us with a big bowlful. “Jesus,” said my friend Garrett. “I guess he really can't drive 55.”

“Yeah!” I rejoined, “One foot on the brake and one on the busboy!”

I also think the design of the place is really great, sort of a warm, modern hacienda thing. The lighting is perfect. When choosing the name Tres Agaves, I can see why Hagar chose something Spanish. However, this is San Francisco, his stomping ground. Why not name it after one of your old bands, Sammy? Montrose wouldn't work, nor would Justice Brothers, but your short-lived project Manhole would really go over well here. Think about it.

I ordered a shot of the Cabo Wabo and it was indeed tasty. You are supposed to sip it, not huff it, so they serve it in a little wine glass. Sammy has said that he was going for a “peanut butter” sort of taste with the brand. I'm happy to say that he failed in that attempt.

I am also proud of the fact that when I saw Sammy at that gas station, I didn't make a “55” joke. How many times do you think people run into him in or around his car and make a “55” joke? It has to drive him insane (pun intended). No, I instead wanted to do the extreme geek move of asking him about the Minutemen. You see, their seminal album Double Nickels on the Dime is a direct reference to Hagar's “I Can't Drive 55.” “Double nickels” is truckerspeak for 55, and the “dime” refers to the 10 freeway in Santa Monica. The Minutemen were saying “We Can and Will Drive 55,” and we will still be much more badass than you really are, you frizzy-haired, rich-boy poseur. So I wanted to get his feelings on that. Before I could approach, some other goombah recognized him and was vigorously shaking his hand, asking him how the Wabo was doing and if Van Hagar was ever going to get back together (probably questions No. 2 and 3 after the ol' “55” on his list of annoyances).

Despite all his imperfections, though, Sammy Hagar still leaves me hot, sweet, and sticky, not unlike a humid Midwestern eve spent in the honeysuckle. And his tequila ain't so bad, either. In fact, not unlike his musical catalog, both are only fully appreciated after about six beers. “Mas tequila!” —Katy St. Clair