For more than four decades, Orange County resident Sammy Hagar has taken center stage for some of the biggest acts in rock music.
After breaking into the industry with the seminal hard rock band Montrose, the red-haired singer and songwriter had a multi-platinum solo career and a 12-year ride as the front man of Van Halen.
All told, Hagar has amassed 25 Platinum albums on sales surpassing 50 million worldwide.
He’s created some of the better-known rock anthems ever written and earned a Grammy Award as well as induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
So, what does this have to do with the culinary arts? Plenty.
In 1990, Hagar opened Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo, Mexico, turning a lifelong passion for food, music and spirits into a thriving lifestyle brand.
Hagar also launched Cabo Wabo Tequila in 1988, which rose to one of top tequila brands in the U.S.
He sold Cabo Wabo Tequila in 2008 for what was at the time a record-breaking $100 million, solidifying his position as a spirits leader. He now owns an award-winning portfolio of top-shelf spirits, including Santo Tequila and Mezquila in a joint venture with Food Network icon Guy Fieri.
He also has Beach Bar Rum and Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co., which debuted with a line of sparkling rum cocktails in a can using Hagar’s own Puerto Rico-made rum.
Now, Hagar brings a taste of Cabo San Lucas to Huntington Beach with the opening of his flagship Cabo Wabo Beach Club at The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel.
The recently renovated and expanded hotel along Coast Highway, with 437 rooms, ranks No. 18 among OC’s largest hotels by room count, according to Business Journal data. It’s the second-largest hotel in Surf City.
The Beach Club is an elevated take on Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina, with a large bar, dining room, and even a patio and pool. The menu features coastal Mexican cuisine.
During a visit to his Beach Club, he and Beach Club mixologist Oscar Gomez made several signature cocktails. Hagar also talked about his many spirits and restaurant ventures, including his concept for his Beach Club.
“My Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo was like a beach club—you could see the ocean and smell the breeze,” Hagar said.
“As Cabo grew, they built a hotel and then another, so now I am on the back streets of Cabo, which used to be beachfront. My lifestyle is beach all day, and at night have a place to party. This Beach Club is the perfect situation. Everything is my vision. As you walk in the door, you have the cantina, themed rooms, memorabilia.”
Hagar also talked his philanthropic efforts and how he gives away a portion of his profits from each location to local charities, through the The Hagar Family Foundation, which he set up with his wife, Kari.
The foundation’s reportedly given away more than $4 million over the years.
Proceeds from the Beach Club are being donated to Orange’s CHOC Hospital and Irvine’s Tilly’s Life Center, which takes care of teens in trouble.
Hagar demonstrated how to make the cocktail that he said “started the whole thing off—a Waborita. It uses a martini glass, no ice.”
It’s an eye-catching cocktail, as are the other ones Hagar made for us, including one he dubbed a smoky Negroni, made with his one-of-a-kind Santo mezquila, a combination of tequila and mezcal.
As he played bartender, Hagar was asked a question: If your life story was a cocktail, what would it be and why?
“Probably a margarita,” he replied.
“It’s the best drink in the world. It’s sweet, sour, spicy, and even a little salty. I am a Libra, so I like to be balanced.”
The OCBJ Review: by christopher trela
After Sammy Hagar completed his cocktail portion of a May event at the Cabo Wabo Beach Club, it was time to sample the menu.
Tray-passed hors d’oeuvres during the cocktail demos included delicious chilaquiles tacos with scrambled eggs, but we were ready for more.
First up were lobster sliders with salad, bacon, cilantro aioli and heirloom tomatoes on a toasted potato bun, followed by chicken and cheese taquitos, a scallop floating in avocado mousse, and fried ice cream in a cinnamon shell.
As Hagar described, this is elevated cantina food, each dish a winner—and no wonder.
Overseeing the execution of the dishes is Waterfront Beach Resort Executive Chef Lewis Butler, who was hired in September of 2021 to run the resort’s Henry’s restaurant.
“I went to Sammy’s Cabo Wabo in Vegas last December and talked with the chef, and spent the day in the kitchen and ate the food,” Butler said.
“We have more seafood here than Vegas does, and things like roasted chicken and prime rib. We want to cater to everyone here—this place is going to be busy.”
When asked about the menu, Hagar noted it was a hybrid of Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill (which has locations in Hawaii, Las Vegas and Cleveland) and his Cabo Wabo cantina.
“We have lots of seafood, like Cabo, but we also have a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner so we’re more versatile,” explained Hagar. “This one is indigenous to this area. We use local ingredients, close to farm to table with this kind of menu. It is so good. I have tried every item on the menu. I am happy.”
Hagar revealed that his favorite dishes on the menu are the Hamachi crudo and the churro waffle.
“I have had crudo all over the world and this is the best I have ever had,” Hagar said.
Cabo Wabo Beach Club at the Waterfront Beach Resort: 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, (800) 822-7873, cabowabobeachclub.com