Photo Credit: Peter Pioppo

Junior Merino
11 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 333-1220

Recipe »

Will Blunt: What drew you to restaurants and in particular to mixology?
Junior Merino: When I was about ten I lived in a puebla in Mexico where I started to cook for my whole family. I loved it! I was interested in how cooking involved using spices and infusions. In 1993, I started working in Boulevard and worked my way up from there.

more >>

Junior Merino

Growing up in Mexico, Junior Merino was only 16 when he arrived in New York in 1993 and began work as a server assistant at the Boulevard Café. He stayed for six years, working his way up to bartender and manager, all the while learning English, working towards his high school diploma, and becoming certified in graphic design.

It was at Roth’s Westside Steakhouse that Merino was first given the opportunity to put together a wine and cocktail list, designing menus that would later be given an award of excellence by Wine Spectator. In his spare time, he invented cocktails and sangria blends for the restaurant and also took courses to be certified by the American Sommelier Association. Over the next six years, Merino studied and passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ exams until finally becoming a Master Sommelier.

When Union Square Hospitality Group opened their restaurants at the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art in 2005, Merino joined the staff Terrace 5, the modern European-style café. A few months later, he transferred to The Modern, overseeing the cocktail menu of the museum’s showpiece restaurant. There the familiar spices, fruits, and vegetables from his Mexican upbringing inspire Merino’s innovative cocktails. Merino draws upon these and other ingredients to mix and matching uncommon flavors, adding an exotic twist to his original cocktails. One of his signature cocktails, Coming Up Roses, was awarded first prize at the International Bar Show’s best cocktail competition. Merino has also made an independent study of chocolate, flowers, tea, coffee, cheese and cigars, hoping to compile a service training manual for front-of-house workers.

back to top

Interview Cont'd
WB: Were you trained in bartending or mixology?
JM: I learned a lot from my parents, and I consider Gabriel Kreuther, a chef, to be my mentor. New and exciting flavors interest and inspire me whether they come from savory dishes or desserts.

WB: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
JM: I’ve noticed that a lot of old fashioned drinks are coming back but in a playful way.

WB: What goes into creating a cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
JM: I am always inspired by the alcohol itself--the pure flavors of Grey Goose, Leblon, or Demars. I taste these alcohols and think about flavor pairings and ingredients that would match the sugarcane of the cachaca or the molasses of the rum.

WB: What is your favorite drink to make?
JM: I enjoy mixing all sorts of drinks, because even the simplest drinks need to be made with care.

WB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
JM: I’d like to have my own place and maybe write a book that teaches people not just how to make, but how to create their own cocktails. I’d like to write the kind of book that inspires people to play around with new and exciting flavors and make their own combinations.

back to top

   Published: September 2006