Rum is widely associated with tropical vacations, and as such is the primary spirit in favorite cocktails like the Mai Tai, Pina Colada and Lava Flow. So when rockstar Sammy Hagar resolved to create a new boutique spirit on Maui, it had to be a premium white rum. Hagar tapped Maui master distiller Mark Nigbur to create his rum from turbinado sugar. You can watch its production during the daily Hali`iimaile Distilling Company tours (there’s also a tasting room).
We caught up with Hagar between his Cabo Wabo Cantina birthday bash in Cabo San Lucas Mexico and tour dates with his band The Circle (Michael Anthony, Jason Bonham and Vic Johnson) and asked him a few questions about Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum. You can sample the rum at the distillery, Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill in Kahului Airport and at a few select bars.
MAUITIME: Why was it important for you to build a brand on Maui?
SAMMY HAGAR: I’m a part time resident of Maui owning two homes there and spending as much time as possible in Maui paradise. Making my rum there was a natural since I have been in the spirits business for over two decades and know what it takes to make a high quality spirit. When I met with a distiller that was making a great pineapple vodka (Pau), I asked him if he could take the great Maui Gold sugar cane and make me a high quality rum. He said “Hell, yes” and away we went.
I love Maui and have many ties there, including a Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill restaurant at the Kahului Airport. All my profits from that restaurant go to local Maui charities–over a million dollars so far and counting to Keiki’s Dreams, Blessings in a Backpack, Na Hoaloha, Hana Youth Center, Teens On Call, Fun Day Foundation, Doorway into Light, St. Anthony’s Grade School and Senior High and West Maui Animal Shelter, just to name a few.
MT: What’s the end game for Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum? Has the vision changed since you launched in 2011?
SH: My goal was to make the best white rum in the world and share it with my fans and friends and this remains my goal today.
MT: You are known as the Red Rocker and your fans are known Red Heads. What’s the relation to your newest crimson spirit, which is called Red Head Macadamia Nut Rum?
SH: My fans are called Red Heads so I dedicated a special rum made just for them. It couples two of Hawaii’s best known ag products–macadamia nuts and sugar cane–and has an all natural coloring agent to make it red.
MT: How did you make that jump from tequila to rum? It’s such a different spirit. What was the original attraction to rum?
SH: Rum in Maui and throughout the islands is a part of the romance and casual relaxing vibe I feel when I’m there. When I get off the plane in Maui I can smell and feel the island. It’s like a floral and earthy sensation. I have always known that if I could capture it in a local spirit, it would be a product I could be proud to share with both locals and with the rest of the world.
MT: Why should celebrity-backed spirits be taken seriously?
SH: My rum (like my tequila) is not a celebrity-backed or endorsement brand. I own it, and anything I put my name on it is first class or I don’t do it. Taste it for yourself to see that this rum is a serious product with consistent high quality.
MT: Speaking of celebrity endorsements, what are some of your favorite bars on Maui?
SH: Any bar that serves my rum! Well, there are so many it’s hard to only name a few but I love Mama’s, Hali`imaile General Store, Ko at the Fairmont, Kuma Bar & Grill, Paiolo, Tommy Bahama’s, the Four Seasons, Monkeypod, Fleetwood’s, Mala, Roy’s, Merriman’s and many more.
MT: What are your favorite rum drinks?
SH: I like white rum on the rocks with a twist of lemon or orange. But I have put all my favorite recipes on our web site at Sammysbeachbarrum.com/recipes.
MT: Ok, Rum on the Rocks sounds like a Red Rocker drink. Your online recipe list is huge! Can you narrow it down for us. How about the last rum cocktail you drank, and where was that? Can you give us that recipe?
SH: I had a Maui Mama last night with friends on my back porch. You make it like this: 1 1/2 oz Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, 1/2 oz coconut syrup, 1/2 oz dark rum, 1 oz orange juice and 2 oz pineapple juice.
MT: If there’s one place in the world where we should drink a Sammy’s Beach Bar rum cocktail, where would that be?
SH: Anywhere with family and friends. My favorite is by the pool looking over the ocean from my home in Maui.