Growing up in central Mexico, Junior Merino began cooking when he was just 10. And his experiences instilled in him an early love for “culinary mestizaje,” or blending diverse flavors. This technique—along with an intense work ethic and a healthy dose of his own creative intuition—has fueled Merino’s meteoric rise in the world of mixology.
Moving to New York at 16, Merino quickly went from busboy to bartender and eventually to beverage manager at Roth’s Westside Steakhouse—all while attending high school and studying English and graphic design. It was at Roth’s that Merino had the opportunity to put together his first wine and cocktail list, which won an award of excellence from Wine Spectator. Already a confirmed natural, Merino was officially initiated into the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Savvy somm though he was, Merino’s heart was in mixology, along with a lot of his talent; his “Coming Up Roses” cocktail took first place in a cocktail competition at the 2005 International Bar Show. And Merino went on to create signature cocktail lists for dozens of restaurants and bars around the world, including New York’s Rayuela and The Modern, and Mexico City’s famed Izote. Recent collaborations with Mexicana Airlines and Celebrity Cruises Equinox mean Merino has conquered land, air, and sea.
Merino moved beyond the menu in 2006 when he launched The Liquid Chef, Inc., to educate mixologists and showcase the artistry of spirits and ingredients from around the world. Not only did the project earn Merino the title of 2006 StarChefs.com Rising Star Mixologist, and special recognition from the Mexican government, it cemented Merino’s place as a trailblazing and generous leader in the diverse world—and the diverse flavors—of mixology.