Infusion trend gets an Aspen twist | AspenTimes.com

Infusion trend gets an Aspen twist

Susannah Luthi
Special to The Aspen Times

Bartender Greg Jefferson has conjured up an assortment of infused vodka cocktails at Aspen's Pacifica Seafood Brasserie.

Pacifica Seafood Brasserie may not be new to the Aspen dining scene, but its cocktail and happy hour has recently emerged this year as an “it” place to be in Aspen. The reason: bartender Greg Jefferson and his to-die-for cocktails made with his own infused vodkas.

Nationally, infused vodkas are often found in trendy city drink locales. But in Aspen, only a couple of establishments have taken on the challenge. Few have done it well. So two years ago, when Jefferson established himself behind Pacifica’s bar, he decided to make infused vodkas to conjure up a tropical vacation feel for Aspen.

“I saw all these new flavors coming out for alcohol,” Jefferson says. “I thought, ‘Why can’t I do it, too?’ “

Jefferson turned to good, old-fashioned ingenuity and began to create a wide range of infused vodkas on his own. The first try was the honeydew melon vodka infusion, and then, as Pacifica’s general manager Nathan Harnish says, “it just exploded from there.”

Today Pacifica has a variety of infused vodkas from which to choose. To create them, Jefferson takes vodkas such as Pearl, Absolut and Johnny Love, or Admiral Nelson rum, and then adds special mix-ins such as fresh pineapple, strawberries, blueberries and more exotic ingredients like Thai pepper and basil.

They form the base for richly flavored, complementary cocktails that aren’t weighted by heavy juice mixers but still offer plenty of novel taste. “I want the alcohol to lose the bitter bite,” Jefferson says. “The infusion needs to mellow out the burn.”

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Jefferson loves the invention process behind creating his flirty infused vodkas, but for everyone else it’s the end result that matters. And, as he puts it, in this case the end result simply “makes the drinks more exciting.”

No doubt. Ever-popular items on the infused martini menu include the too-pretty-to-drink Blue Tangerine, which incorporates a popular combination of Johnny Love Tangerine vodka infused with blueberries and “Lime in the Coconut,” featuring the Pearl Coconut vodka infused with Kaifer lime leaf.

Then there are the 24-ounce, $10 Boat Drinks, many of which are accented by the infusions as well. (Warning: the Boat Drinks are so good, it’s easy to forget there is alcohol in these tasty beauties.) And new combinations are always in the works. This winter during Pacifica’s lively apres-ski happy hour, keep an eye out for the pineapple-ginger vodka or Jefferson’s new experiments with tequila and gin.

“Sometimes ideas for new flavors come to me in the middle of the night,” Jefferson said. “Sometimes I bring ideas from the kitchen to the bar – the chef throws ideas out for the pairing of different flavors, too.”

And though the cocktails stand out by themselves, the subtlety of their flavors are highlighted even more with certain food pairings, making them part of taking a dining experience one step further. Sweeter cocktails, like the Blue Tangerine martini, make a smooth accompaniment for Pacifica’s legendary seafood offerings such as shrimp and calamari ceviche, oysters on the half-shell, or the lavish entrees, which change seasonally.

This winter, the menu includes happy hour specials to match the special drinks. Everyday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Pacifica’s happy hour includes discounted selections from the restaurant’s full raw bar as well as the hot and cold appetizer plates. But don’t miss out on chef Brian Nelson’s new winter entree menu.

Pacifica Seafood Brasserie is located at 307 S. Mill St., between the Cooper and Hyman malls.

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