Jimmy Zanon has been with the Big Red F family for fourteen years now: He was at the Jax in LoDo for almost six years, bartending, serving and managing, and then spent almost seven years at Lola, where he took over the bar program. Now he's moved on to the brand-new Jax Glendale, where he seized the opportunity to forge a bar program that stays true to the Jax model while also introducing fresh drinking experiences to a new clientele.
We recently caught up with Zanon to talk Jax philosophy, moving on from tequila, and beer cocktails.
Westword: How does it feel to move into a new role at the new Jax location?
Jimmy Zanon: I'm super-excited to be out here. Lola was great -- very tequila-centric. I tasted and learned about a lot of delicious tequilas, but it was time to move on; I had made enough margaritas. It's great to be here and have a great wine program, cocktail list and local beer on tap -- we have fourteen beers on draft, some homemade sodas. It's a fun melding of all facets of the beverage program: beer, spirits and wine.
If tequila was central to the bar program at Lola, what would you say is central to the bar program here at Jax, and how does it differ from the beverage programs at the other Jax locations?
We do a little bit of everything here. Obviously, wine is a focus- -- we have a great sommelier and wine guy in Javier, so we have a nice balance between cocktails, wine and beer right now. It's continuing to follow the original Jax model with martinis, wine and delicious beer. We follow the same model of Jax with this program -- fantastic fish and food-friendly wine list, a great selection of local spirits, a nice infusion program that is a staple across the Jax brands, like our strawberry-cucumber and Thai-chili and black tea-infused vodkas. We rely on our infusions to do creative stuff. We have a great selection of beers on tap, and our cocktail program is fun, seasonal and unique. We have a lot of clientele that live on this side of town, and we wanted to make this a place that would be familiar and comfortable -- nothing too far off the brand.
Do you have any favorite Colorado spirits?
We carry a ton of local spirits. I don't gravitate towards one in particular, but I do really like Cap Rock gin. We use Cap Rock in the "Garden Variety," which is on our cocktail list right now. It's one of my favorite new local gins.
With that in mind, what do you like to drink in the summer, and how does that form a cocktail that you would make for yourself or for Jax patrons? Does it change from season-to-season for you?
For the cocktail program, given that we opened in the middle of the summer, we have a lot of gin cocktails on the menu. There are a lot of lighter, fresher flavors and syrups; I've got a whole aperitif section, so gin is the focus with a few vodka cocktails thrown in the mix. We don't have a lot of whiskey-based cocktails right now -- in the fall we'll start focusing on whiskey. We're selling a lot of gin and vodka: It's partially the clientele that frequent this location, but a lot of people just love clear booze -- you know, martinis and tonics in the summer.So, gin. What's one of your favorite gin cocktails then?
I make a beer cocktail called the "Headed West"; it uses Avery IPA, a little Broker's Gin, which is a nice London dry gin, housemade simple syrup, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, served on the rocks with a big sprig of rosemary. Just a nice, tall...what I like to call a "long drink," meaning it's something you can sip on for a while. It's just a nice, summer rooftop patio cocktail.
Do you see yourself moving towards a focus on the aperitif cocktails?
I'm trying to get the clientele to try these by guiding them through the experience of something new, not just their usual. I'm really planning a lot according to how their night will go -- starting with a nice lighter alcohol, like an aperitif cocktail, a martini with appetizers, wine with dinner, a nightcap or digestiv at the end of the meal. The idea is to give options and lead them through the experience, as opposed to drinking one thing throughout your whole dining experience. That complement of food and beverage is just part of the dining experience here -- and that philosophy is what I base my cocktail list off of.
Keep reading for one of Zanon's recipes. Headed West
1.5 ounces Broker's Gin 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice .5 ounces simple syrup 1 ounce Avery IPA Fresh rosemary
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Shake the gin, fresh grapefruit juice, and simple syrup. Keep in shaking tin. Add fresh ice to a pint glass, and pour the Avery IPA over it. Then, add shaken ingredients. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.