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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bobby Lozoff: Local Liquor Legend and Inventor of the Tequila Sunrise

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Bobby Lozoff - JOSE CUERVO
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  • Bobby Lozoff

To earn the title of legend in the booze business, you need carry some serious credentials to the table. Enter Sausalito native, Bobby Lozoff. A Bay Area bartender with some 50 years of experience behind the stick, the man invented the Tequila Sunrise, introduced it to the Rolling Stones on their infamous 1972 tour, and slung spirits to some of the biggest rock stars of the '60s and '70s. A resume such as that comes with a stable of certifiably insane anecdotes. Without too much discretion, here are a few of Lozoff's most cherished memories.

Lozoff's long, strange trip started at the Trident, an historic watering hole in Sausalito, renowned for its countercultural connections, and singularly psychedelic vibe. It was here that he became friendly with one Bill Graham. "He was the concert czar of San Francisco," Lozoff recalls. "The king of music in the Bay Area. The king of music in the Bay Area. Through him and his connections we had Santana, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Stevie Miller, Janis Joplin and Crosby Stills and Nash all stopping into The Trident as regulars." 

It was a confluence of musical masterminds unique to that precious time and place: late '60s San Francisco. And Lozoff had a front row seat.

"One night in 1972 — a night we were supposed to be closed — [Graham] brought The Rolling Stones into The Trident," Lozoff remembers. "He knew we could provide the security and comfort they demanded that night. And the drinks. And the girls."

From this inimitable swirl of debauchery sprang forth a cocktail — Lozoff's own creation —  that would go on to become one of the most popular tequila drinks of the modern era. "Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards] came up to the bar looking for a drink. They asked me for a Margarita but I wanted to share with them a new drink that I had made called the Tequila Sunrise. What made it so special was the fact that it’s only got three ingredients. So easy to make that they could do it themselves backstage, in the hotel or on the airplane. Just Jose Cuervo Tequila, orange juice and a drop of grenadine over ice. Instantly, they fell in love and grabbed a bottle. They went back to their tables and mixed up their own Tequila Sunrises thereafter. Eventually, the tour was nicknamed the Tequila Sunrise tour — and, as they say, the rest is history."

Culturally, their rendezvous affected drinkers everywhere. But on a personal level, Lozoff's run-in with the Stones led to a bender of epic proportions. "I only met them during that tour in 1972. That said, we all partied together for three nights, consecutively and continuously," he proudly admits. "It started on Friday that night at The Trident. The party kept going and everybody at The Trident got complimentary passes to the show. We rented several buses and shipped everyone to Cow Palace. There was a party afterwards and the next day, I was able to get us into another huge bar in S.F., The Orphanage. That spot was huge. It had two floors and could hold 800 people. I was the manager and we arranged for The Stones to come in for one of their parties and we never stopped that night. The bar was supposed to close down at 2 a.m. but it never happened. That night at The Orphanage, we were joined by all the San Francisco rock legends: Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead. You name it, and they were there."

And that was just one weekend in the life of Lozoff. Epic encounters in that era were a dime a dozen for the affable bartender. 

"I was definitely a Deadhead back in the '70s, so it was always thrilling to serve [The Grateful Dead] at The Trident," he says. "David Crosby lived down the street and he was in quite a lot. I remember when I was only a young busboy, he carried a buck knife (everyone did) and one day he ate a steak using only his knife. One of the biggest names of the time was Janis Joplin. She always came in and drank anything I would pour for her. She invited me to her wild parties that she threw at her house in Corte Madera and one of my best stories that I always share is the time that I waited two hours standing in line for Lyle Tuttle to tattoo me. At the time, he was a world famous tattoo artist and still is today. He was covered from neck to toe in ink but I walked away with a small tattoo on my shoulder of a little flower. It took about one minute but I’ll carry it with me forever."

With all the spirits he's served, Lozoff clearly reserves a soft spot for one drink in particular. "In the early '70s, the bar scene was very heavy, serious drinking. Everyone was drinking scotch, beer, irish coffee — except the hippies, who were drinking tequila. The ladies were drinking margaritas and at The Trident we always served them Jose Cuervo margaritas. It was the most consistent tequila that you could buy back then and we went through more Cuervo than probably any other bar in California — maybe even all the other bars combined in the U.S." It was less of a liquor than part of a lifestyle at that point in time. "Tequila started spreading in popularity in Sausalito among the hippies around '67," he remembers. "Back in '67 you’d put a flower in your hair and have a shot of tequila. That was it."

Alas, a bottle of tequila only lasts so long. Particularly when you're serving rock star clientele. Bobby Lozoff, however, has stories to last a lifetime. It comes with the title of liquor legend. 


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About The Author

Brad Japhe

Brad Japhe

Bio:
I enjoy my whiskey neat, my beer hoppy, and my meat medium rare. I have been covering craft spirits, suds, and gourmet cuisine for a decade, with work published from New York, across Montana, and up and down the Pacific Coast.

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