Project Night Faux'spresso

Mercedes O'Broien of Gunshow builds her faux'spresso martini
Mercedes O'Broien of Gunshow builds her faux'spresso martini

Every other Th ursday at Gunshow, Rising Star Chef Joey Ward leads “project night,” pairing cooks and bartenders in groups of two to three and unleashing them on a joint creative venture. Th ey might have to taste foods blindfolded, conceptualize menu items with a cotton candy core, or tear down plating conventions by presenting a Sazerac as a soup, or a consomm√© as the classic New Orleans cocktail.
“I like providing an aha moment. More than something delicious, a dish has to have impact emotionally, wow factor,” says Ward, whose ultimate goal is to teach while developing new menu items.

During one such session, Bartender Mercedes O’Brien and her partners were tasked with investigating chestnuts, and they found that when charred, ground, and brewed, they tasted a whole lot like nutty, bitter coff ee. Th at discovery led O’Brien down a creative path to an Espresso Martini—without any espresso.
“Espresso Martinis are outside my style. I’ve never had the privilege of serving them,” says O’Brien, a four-year Gunshow vet who worked at former Atlanta cocktail institution H. Harper Station. “The challenge was to make the drink, but in a style that said Gunshow.”

O’Brien tweaked her chestnut “faux’spresso” with the addition of candied, fried, and ground Chinese black beans, which lend a chocolate quality to the final brew (as a Brazilian coffee bean would in an espresso blend). She also uses the black beans to infuse the cocktail’s vermouth element, Carpano Antica. Layering in more coffee notes, she makes a sous vide coffee liqueur with East Pole Coffee Co.’s Traffic cold brew, whole coffee beans, sugar, vanilla, and Grey Goose vodka. The finishing touches: beyond caramelized (aka burnt) rich simple syrup and an ounce of Grey Goose vodka that “fortifies and lengthens the drink—like a good pair of heels,” says O’Brien. “Grey Goose also lends a beautiful, rich head to the cocktail."

For a flash of Gunshow theatre, and because O’Brien likes to give guests cocktail-adjacent nibbles, she serves black and white sesame seed tuiles on the side. She’s a bartender using immersion circulators and silpats, working with chefs to better understand ingredients, and developing drinks that express the essence of a meal at Gunshow: over-the-top, unexpected, and fabulous. 

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