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Bobby Lozhoff on KTVU television January 11th, 2016 – being interviewed for being the creator of the modern day Tequila Sunrise. Post from Jeff Burkhart aka “The Barfly” who writes for a variety of publications including National Geographic.
The Tequila sunrise legend finally gets his due A friend who works in the film business once said, “Being on a film set is just standing around watching other people standing around.” And that is exactly what I was doing.
I had been invited to the shooting of a documentary/commercial being filmed by Jose Cuervo at the legendary Trident restaurant in Sausalito. I was not there at the behest of the Cuervo people, I was there as a guest of the star of the show itself, Bobby Lozoff, former Trident bartender and the legendary inventor of the tequila sunrise. It was the first time in nearly 40 years that Lozoff had set foot back in the Trident. “I walked out of this place on Dec. 14, 1975, and I haven’t touched another bottle since,” he whispered to me. The Trident officially closed that day and Lozoff subsequently moved to Hawaii where he opened the Blue Max, a live music nightclub patterned on his incarnation of the Trident (the Trident was reopened in 2012 by Bob Freeman who also owns the Buena Vista in San Francisco).
I knew Lozoff because I had interviewed him back in 2011, first for my Barfly column in the IJ and then for a feature story I wrote for the National Geographic Assignment blog in 2012. Over the years we have kept in touch, but since he lived in Hawaii and I lived here, we had actually never met in person.
Now we stood in the bar of the rechristened Trident and swapped bartender stories while an army of film people swarmed around us. Lozoff is something of a celebrity these days. In the bar and cocktail world it is rare to actually have the inventor of a world-famous cocktail still around, or even identifiable, for that matter. Cocktails come and go, but the really famous tipples are all 75 to 100 years old. Even the Moscow mule, which is all the rage right now, traces its heritage back to the 1940s. One of the relative newcomers is the tequila sunrise. The name was coined in the 1930s but the drink, as we know it — tequila, orange juice and grenadine — was invented in the early 1970s by Lozoff at the Trident. It’s almost like being able to ask Ian Fleming himself exactly what he meant by “shaken, not stirred.” Regardless of what you think of the drink, there is no denying its far-reaching fame. Movies and rock songs have made use of it. On a recent trip to Paris, I saw the drink on at least two cocktail menus. That kind of fame does not go unnoticed.
Jose Cuervo tequila has used the drink twice to promote its product — once in the 1970s and again recently in a television ad using the Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour as a backdrop. It was Lozoff himself who introduced Cuervo to the Stones at the Trident in 1972. The first time around Cuervo neglected to mention Lozoff. This time around the company appears to be more than making up for it.
“We’re almost ready for you,” a pretty film assistant said, interrupting Lozoff as he pointed out the espresso bar that he helped build more than 40 years ago.
“They want me to make 10 or so fancy cocktails,” he tells me. “Why don’t you do it?” The Cuervo people want none of that. “I’m just an old hippie bartender,” he said, declining. “In my day it was, ‘You’re not ready [to order]?’ Next!” he said pointing to an invisible patron.
It might have been 40 years ago, but Lozoff is still a bartender at heart. He’ll be the first to admit that he doesn’t particularly care for grenadine; he calls it a name unfitting for a newspaper. But as any real bartender will tell you, what the customer wants is what the customer gets, and back then grenadine ruled the day. Lozoff prefers a sunrise with crème de cassis, a black currant liqueur, but he acknowledges that the drink is prettier with grenadine. He also adds that “making it with both” is optimum. The new Trident agrees, featuring that version on its menu. As for Cuervo and the Stones’ preferences, we will simply have to wait and see.
The last I saw of Lozoff, assistants were powdering his face for a close-up. Forty years later he’s finally getting his due. Better late than never.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of “20 Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender” as well as an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant.
The Rolling Stones 1972 Tour is the stuff of legend — debauchery in full swing, the epitome of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. More than four decades later, Cuervo tequila pays homage to the group’s hedonistic past in a new commercial.
The spot, which you can watch above, states the band connection from the start: “In 1972, the Rolling Stones took Jose Cuervo on tour. Rock ‘n’ roll would never be the same.” The commercial unfolds aboard a plane full of musicians, groupies and hangers-on. “The tour that became legend. The drink that fueled it,” says an onscreen tag.
According to National Geographic, Mick Jagger was first introduced to the golden elixir at a party shortly before the tour. “Mick came up to the bar and asked for a margarita,” recalled Bobby Lozoff, the man behind the Tequila Sunrise. “I asked him if he had ever tried a Tequila Sunrise, he said no, I built him one and they started sucking them up. After that, they took them all across the country.” In his 2010 autobiography, Life, Keith Richards said the 1972 road show was known as “the cocaine and Tequila Sunrise tour.”
The Stones themselves don’t appear in the ad, and there seems to be more fantasy than fact playing throughout the clip. But that soundtrack has us a bit confused. As a pretty lady wanders the plane aisles handing out glasses of tequila, the Rolling Stones can be heard loud and clear. The only problem? The song playing is “Miss You,” which wasn’t released until 1978.
Artistic license, perhaps, but still a glaring mistake in the timeline. “The spot is inspired by the Stones in the ’70s, and with so much passion around this legendary band, song choice would naturally spark debate,” said a spokesperson from McCann, the company behind the ad. “As we developed the creative, we found that this iconic song best captures the spirit of that era.”
Even though Cuervo was wise to avoid reenacting any of the coke snorting, dope shooting and other less-than-family-friendly scenes from the tour, we think the commercial itself comes off a little too squeaky clean to have any real ties to the gritty surroundings of that era.
Trident alumni Ed Gutekunst has written an amazing original Movie Treatment/ Short Story about three women coming of age in 1974 while working at the Trident. One of them is a Manager named Dagny(?), and the other two are two waitresses named Josie and Chelo. This is a beautiful story about friendship, loyalty, and redemption. Fiction written over real events that took place at the Trident. The summer of 1974. More about The Trident movie to follow… and perchance you’re in touch with Alexander Payne, Ron Howard, Billy Crystal, or George Lucas we’d love to talk to them!
You also may have noticed a new look here.This site previously was birthed on a GoDaddy quick blogcast web site account. Although I had paid up to 2018 for the site to be hosted by GoDaddy – GoDaddy decided that they were not making enough money off of their Quickblogcast accounts, and dropped them…thereby ending (sent to the grave) all those web sites including yours truly. This is a WordPress web site. All previous post are being rescanned (Photos/images), videos recovered, and articles copied and pasted into this new format which will take weeks? Months? Thank you for your patience here as we restart/rebuild this web site… July 15, 2014
Prior to this WordPress web site being created – according to GoDaddy’s Statistics: www.TridentRestaurant.com has had over 2 million views to date since it was first created in 2006.
Thanks to everyone that’s contributed here! All the best in 2015!
Mark Danforth Lomas MDLomas@gmail.com 805.845.2888
ABOUT A YEAR AGO Mark Lomas, a former bartender who runs the Trident Restaurant website, and I had lunch. We sat in the main dining room of the Trident in Sausalito and swapped bar stories. I had once worked at the briefly reopened Ondine, which was above the original Trident.
Owned by the Kingston Trio, the Trident was way ahead of its time. From 1966 to the mid- 1970s it was the place to be in the Bay Area. Famed for its beautiful waitresses and musical pedigree, it also featured such innovations as sashimi, a fresh juice bar and an espresso bar.
After numerous stories about rock ‘n’ rollers, waitresses, Robin Williams (once a busboy at the Trident), Lomas mentioned that the tequila sunrise had been invented there.
Now, I was reasonably sure that the tequila sunrise had been invented long before that, but I tucked away that information along with the phone number of the bartender who supposedly did that inventing.
From my research, I learned that:
• The Arizona Biltmore hotel claims that bartender Gene Sulit invented the tequila sunrise there in the late 1930s, consisting of tequila, lime juice, soda and crème de cassis.
• The recipe most people are familiar with; tequila orange juice and grenadine appeared for the very first time in the 1974 version of Mr. Boston’s Bartender’s Guide.
Drink origins are always a little murky. Take the martini, for instance. The town of Martinez claims that it was invented there in 1874. In fact it put up a historical landmark to “certify” the event. It doesn’t seem to matter that the drink invented there was called the Martinez Special, or that it included bitters, as well as a different kind of gin and a totally different kind of vermouth. There it sits, certified in stone: “Birthplace of the Martini.”
Eventually I called the so-called inventor of the tequila sunrise. Bobby Lazoff, 63, splits his time between computer IT work and teaching tutorials while living in Hawaii. But back in 1969 he was a fresh-faced 20-year-old looking for work in Sausalito. “I did about two or three days as a dishwasher,” he said. “Then I was a busboy and when I got old enough I became a bartender.” He claimed to have taken the bartending very seriously. “The Trident was a rock ‘n’ roll haven and tequila was the ‘in’ drink,” he said. So he and another bartender, Billy Rice, started experimenting. “Anything made with gin or vodka we started making with tequila,” he said. “A couple of them didn’t turn out too well.” One drink that did turn out well was a resurrected tequila sunrise. “We built it in a chimney glass; a shot of tequila with one hand, a shot of sweet and sour with the other hand, the soda gun, then orange juice, float crème de cassis on top, grenadine if you wanted, and that was it, the tequila sunrise.” Eventually, the bartenders simplified the recipe to just tequila, orange juice and grenadine.
“We had a Rolling Stones party (the kickoff of the media frenzy that was their 1972 tour) one Monday night when we were usually closed,” Lazoff said. “The owner called me in and put me behind the bar. We had a select menu, a couple of the prettier waitresses and that was the party. Bill Graham brought in about 35 people, and you know the place holds several hundred. Mick came up to the bar and asked for a margarita, I asked him if he had ever tried a tequila sunrise, he said no, I built him one and they started sucking them up. After that they took them all across the country.”
OK, I thought, all I had to do was get the Rolling Stones to verify that and we could reasonably assume that Lazoff might be indeed be responsible for the most recognizable incarnation of the tequila sunrise.
Rather unlikely. As a result, the story sat until I picked up Keith Richards’ book “Life,” published this past October. Chapter nine, sentence No. 1: “The ’72 tour was known by other names — the cocaine and tequila sunrise tour … ” I could not believe my eyes.
I realized that I should probably be a little more trusting, and that the Trident might want to look into historical markers.
Jeff Burkhart is an author, regular contributor to National Geographic Assignment and an award-winning bartender at a Marin restaurant. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The National Geographic Article by Jeff, Not Just Another Tequila Sunrise, can be found elsewhere on this site. Similar, but completely different. Or, as they say, “The Same Difference?”