A few weeks ago you might have enjoyed a Bathtub cocktail at the super secret Visit Las Vegas pop up bar in East London, curated by the incredible Mariena Mercer, chief mixologist at The Cosmopolitan hotel of Las Vegas (cosmopolitanlasvegas.com)
We were blown away by the evening’s entertainment (contortionists!!) but more so by Mariena’s creativity and just had to know more about her journey and her hidden Vegas.
HOC: Hey Mariena, can you tell us about your story to how you got to where you are today?
MM: I’d say I have landed in the position I am in today through many acts of serendipitous kismet and always being passionately curious. I was studying chemistry when a job was created for me called, “Tequila Goddess.”
Just after my 21st birthday I jumped on a plane to study at different distilleries in the town of Tequila. I fell in love with the spirit and came back to the states where I started consulting on Tequila programs. From there it was a natural progression to “geek out” on other spirits and bartending.
I started competing in cocktail competitions, which enabled me to meet really amazing people and travel the world and hone my craft. I’ve always been fascinated with alchemy and creativity so I really delved in the mixology side of bartending. I’ve been with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for over 8 years, where I currently design 17 menus across property and oversee the creative vision of the beverage program. Every day is something new and exciting!
HOC: Have you ever had to overcome prejudice to you being a woman in this industry?
MM: I’ve certainly been in positions where I have been underestimated, but I’ve never let that discourage me. The contrary, really I use that as one of my greatest weapons. I am confident that my abilities are superlative, so they can watch my performance and take notes. The industry has always been a bit of a boys club, but it’s really energising to watch so many strong and talented women supplant that. I’ve got a great group of boss babes that I keep around me as inspiration.
HOC: What’s your favourite hidden spot in Vegas?
MM: I may be biased, but Ghost Donkey at The Cosmopolitan (cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/lounges-bars/ghost-donkey) is our new Tequila & Mezcal bar. It’s uber-hip and looks like it should be in a Tarantino movie. There are truffle nachos and killer cocktails! Agave always pulls at my heart strings and I may just move my office there…
HOC: We hear there is a hidden gem cocktail menu at the Resort…can you let us in on the secret?
MM: There is a cocktail that is served at The Chandelier Bar and it is not on any menu, just word of mouth. It’s our most popular cocktail with near 600,000 sold. It’s called “The Verbena” and it’s an exotic margarita of Silver Tequila, Yuzu Sour, & Ginger. It is garnished with a Szechuan flower (street name “Buzz Button”) which is this incredible flower that is a natural alkaloid. When you eat this flower, it speeds up your salivary glands and makes you a super-taster. Suddenly your entire mouth is tingling and you are tasting different nuances and flavours. I always say it’s like tasting in living colour. It’s such a great experience and definitely my greatest hit.
HOC: What inspires you to create your cocktails and how often do you add new ones to your menus?
MM: Honestly, my cocktails are just a great expression of me and what I’m enamoured with at the time. I can look over my past cocktail menus and they are really just snapshots of things I was passionate about at the moment- songs I was listening to, books I was reading, food I was eating, and love affairs with different spirits.
I really take inspiration from everything around me. I always want to be present and immersed in everything around me. I constantly have a notebook where I am jotting down different inspirations. I’ve coined a portmanteau “Slee-piphany” (sleep + epiphany) because I do my best work in my sleep. I just wake up, write down whatever was on my mind and fall back asleep. It’s always a great surprise in the morning.
HOC: What cocktail will you be shaking up this festive season?
MM: Nothing says celebration to me like Champagne. I love doing floral-inspired French 75’s with flavoured pearls in a marie antoinette coupe.
HOC: What’s big for cocktails in 2019, in your wisdom?
MM: I’ve always adored Mezcal and the rich culture of Oaxaca. I think the rest of the world is quickly catching up. In the States, there are so many artisan Mezcals available now that really tell the passionate story of Mezcal, and I think that is so exciting. Mezcal cheekys are also the best way to start a night out (mini- pours of Mezcal)!
To plan your very own hidden Vegas adventure head over to visitlasvegas.com and be sure to head to The Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; cosmopolitanlasvegas.com to sample some of Mariena’s ingenius crafted cocktails.