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Cocktails

Concept menu celebrates San Diego’s distinct flora

The Last Kumquat cocktail from George’s Level2
The Last Kumquat blends Appleton Estate rum with a house kumquat cordial.
(Courtesy photo)

Unveiling their second annual concept menu, Floras of San Diego, George’s Level2 offers thirsty patrons 24 new craft cocktails inspired by San Diego County’s distinct flora. As part of George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, Level2 is known for its inventive and eye-catching cocktails, including their last iteration, The Neighborhoods of San Diego, which featured delicious interpretations of local areas including Point Loma, Balboa Park, Little Italy and Bankers Hill.

Along with the cocktails, the debut features a hardbound book (available for purchase for $30), which displays illustrations of each flora, images of various landscapes of San Diego where they can be found and foraged, photographs of each cocktail and its corresponding recipe.

A launch party to kick off the menu will be held at Level2 on Monday, May 13 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Guests will enjoy a welcome punch and $4 off each of the new cocktails, with happy hour food available for munching all evening.

PACIFIC chatted with Sam Peters, general manager and co-creator of the new menu to find out more about the menu, his favorite cocktail and a few must-tries for cocktail lovers:

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PACIFIC: Who created the menu with you and what was the inspiration?

SAM PETERS: Assistant manager to Level 2, Christian Ortiz, and lead bartender, Cole Shepard. With our last menu, we wanted to show the diverse cultures of San Diego. This time, we wanted to showcase our beautiful weather.

The Wisdom Cobbler
The Wisdom Cobbler is made with a syrup derived from dehydrated elderberries.
(Courtesy photo.)

What are some of the local flora inspiring these cocktails?

Nopales, pine, nasturtium, elderberry, local citrus and kumquat are a few. These grow native or were brought in and naturally grow in our climate.

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Walk us through, from floral inspiration to cocktail.

We went out and foraged what we wanted to use on the menu. Then it was a tasting game, what made sense. With nasturtium, for example, when you are eating the flower or leaves, it has peppery spice, so we used rhum agricole, because it accents the pepper tone.

You’re very open with your recipes!

We are very transparent with our menu. All of them are in the book, along with the recipes to make the syrups. You can do this at home! We want to give people an opportunity to express creativity and use their imagination.

What’s essential in a good cocktail?

I would say that most important thing is the spirit, the process and quality and what you want to showcase. You want to be thoughtful. I would also say syrups. In both refreshing or direct cocktails, look for consistency and high quality.

Favorite cocktail?

Our Citrus Spritz. It showcases grapefruit, which grows in Valley Center, and that beautiful bright citrus character. It’s a kegged cocktail variation of an Aperol Spritz, which we tweaked with citrus-infused gin and clarified grapefruit juice. It elevates the spritz, and on tap is a cool, modernized way of showcasing a cocktail.

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What would you pair it with?

With the cocktail’s subtle bitter and sweet notes, I’d say fish tacos or ceviche. The acids will play off of each other.

If someone can only try one?

If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Cactus Fresca. We made our own soda. We took nopales and sous vide with fresh red bell pepper juice, with a closed fermentation for three days. It shows complexity and is simple at the same time. Nopales has been around for generations, but instead of tequila, we put it with a mesquite whiskey.

My second favorite is the Fennel Colada, which is essentially a piña colada, and is approachable with a spin. We added Moet Champagne and absinthe, so there is effervescence and herbal notes.

George’s Level2, 1250 Prospect St., La Jolla, 858.454.4244, georgesatthecove.com/level2


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