Whenever I take a respite from drinking (yeah, it happens), I crave ice cream. I don’t know if it has something to do with the sugar content, or just an ingrained need to do something enjoyable that I know isn’t good for me. But every stint on the wagon over the past 30 or so years has been accompanied by a flood of milkshakes and a barrage of Ben & Jerry’s. Pour me a stiff drink, however, and frozen treats are the last thing on my mind. I’m OK with that. I figure as long as I’m limiting these beloved vices to one at a time, it’s acceptable. That’s why I’m so afraid of Leif Pearson, and the delicious products created by his local company, Momenti Spirited Ice Creams.
In Las Vegas, you don’t have to look hard to find an ice cream-based dessert mixed with booze. But Momenti actually infuses its ice creams and sorbets with alcohol during the manufacturing process. The smooth and dense gelato comes in three flavors: Vanilla Vodka Cookies & Cream, White Russian Pecan and Chocotini Chip. The sorbets currently incorporate either blackberry purée and cabernet sauvignon wine or limoncello. Alcohol content generally hovers around 5 percent by volume, although the current wine variety is just 3.5 percent.
Pearson is a former sales manager and information-technology instructor whose last job involved training people for IT certifications. A far cry from that work, his fascination with ice cream began with a 2013 bus trip in which he and his colleagues had been informed they wouldn’t be allowed to bring alcohol on the bus thanks to some messy frat guys who’d had the vehicle the weekend before. Fortunately, a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond helped him skirt the rules.
“I’d actually been reading a science blog called Gizmodo, and they had [reported on] a very, very early version of making alcohol-infused ice cream. There was a special on ice cream makers at Bed Bath & Beyond, so I put the two ideas together.” Pearson’s early results weren’t perfect, but they were popular. “It barely froze,” the entrepreneur says of his first experiments. “It was a white Russian, no pecans in it at first. And people really loved it. They ate it up at 6 in the morning because I told them to eat quickly.”
Inspired, Pearson pursued a more formal ice cream education that began in 2013 with a course by instructors Bruce Tharp and Steve Young in Las Vegas. “Those guys taught me how to do it right,” he says, “and what sort of science it really is.” After that he took a gelato course in California that touched on alcohol infusions. And about three years ago he served some of his homemade infused ice cream to a friend, who encouraged him to turn his passion into a career.
Born in Las Vegas but living in California at the time, Pearson returned to the Valley to launch the business. He set up shop at a factory on the east side that is currently able to produce 5,000 one-cup servings in four hours. And local businesses are becoming receptive to his vision. He’s closing deals with several venues to offer his products this summer, including the Palms Place pool, Café 6, Sonrisa Grill and Essence & Herbs.
For those who want to enjoy Momenti’s products at home, Pearson is expanding his formats to include 5-liter servings for private parties. The wine variety will be the first to be sold online with others to follow, and out-of-state retail distribution is being pursued.
If a company is going to bring a hybrid of two great vices to the world, it seems only appropriate it would be based in Las Vegas, a town that’s never encouraged anyone to limit their bad habits.
So much for balancing my own.