A few years ago, while strolling through a farmers market in Santa Monica, Calif., DJ Fernandes spied his first cold-brew coffee tower. It looked like something out of a high-school chemistry lab—a glass menagerie of orbs and cylinders and spiral tubing, all stacked in a vertical column.
Fernandes, an architect turned restaurateur, studied the apparatus. It was sublime in its simplicity and powered only by gravity. Through a series of metronomic drips and slow-motion sluices, it transformed ice-cold water into golden-black coffee.
Fernandes ordered a cup and almost immediately hatched an idea. After he returned to Phoenix, he began surfing the Internet in search of Japanese cold-brew coffee towers. That’s the genesis story of Mornin’ Moonshine, the coffee cold-brewed and hand-bottled at Fernandes’ popular central Phoenix breakfast restaurant, Vovomeena.
But it’s not the whole story.
While Fernandes’ original blend of Mornin’ Moonshine was smooth, with little of the acidity and bitterness of conventionally brewed coffee, he wasn’t satisfied. He sought more flavor. And flavors. His initial idea was to create cold-brew flights using roasts from different parts of the coffee-growing world.
“We get our beans from the Roastery of Cave Creek, and they have all these really cool blends—Honduras blonde, Ecuador dark—so we used those,” Fernandes says. “We’d brew ’em all up, and we’d be all stoked to see what happened with them. And guess what? They all tasted pretty much the same.”
Fernandes and his Vovomeena crew went back to the lab, which now consisted of three cold-brew towers suspended from the ceiling. And they enthusiastically embraced the mad-scientist thing.
“We tried a lot of stuff,” Fernandes said. “Instead of using water to brew the coffee, we tried using orange soda … which was a failure.”
The turning point came when Fernandes began plopping whole spices, fruits and peppers into the brewing tower. Stuff like cardamom and ginger and jalapeno. Suddenly, the coffee started taking on bold flavors. The next challenge was to marry them.
“Wanted to create something with two flavor profiles that balance each other out,” Fernandes says.
After much trial and error, he arrived at five Mornin’ Moonshine flavors (in addition to the straight-up, foundational blend): lemon and jalapeno; vanilla pod and cocoa nib; green tea and mint; star anise and cardamom; and orange peel and ginger. Fernandes’ favorite?
“The one that I like the most—but I thought would be the weirdest one and the flavor people would like least—is often the one that other people also like the most, and that’s the star anise and cardamom,” he says. “It’s got that black-licorice thing going on, and it’s really intense and different.”
If you fancy a dose of Mornin’ Moonshine in the evenin’, you can get it at Bar Crudo, where the cocktail menu features the Bali Brew. It’s made with Moonshine vanilla and cocoa nib, along with Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, lemon, orange zest, jalapeno, Vieux Pontarlier and absinthe.
A word of caution from the architect of all this infused cold brew: Take it easy. Because even though Mornin’ Moonshine doesn’t actually contain alcohol, it still packs a potent punch of caffeine.
“I’m not recommending that someone drink a whole heck of a lot of it,” Fernandes says. “Otherwise things kind of get off the rails.”
1515 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix