Divine Spirit: Mariena Mercer Boarini, Mixologist, Wynn Las Vegas
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines spirit as “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms.” While the word also refers to 'distilled liquors', it’s hard to dispute the other meaning after experiencing the sorcery of Mariena Mercer Boarini's cocktails. Liquid nitrogen, edible art, and unique garnishes contribute to the magic that also won her the global title at The Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition in 2015. Recently named as the new Resort Mixologist at Wynn Las Vegas, Mariena is also an entrepreneur—serving both as founder and creative director of a cocktail consulting and branding agency, and also creator of Electricdust™, a flavor and sensory enhancement.
Hi Mariena! You are known as the cocktail goddess of Las Vegas. I love your Instagram handle: @Mariena_the_wanderlush! It definitely captures a love of life and freedom of spirit. Where are you from and what steps have brought you to where you are right now?
Thank you! I always say my career has been serendipitous kismet or a string of very happy accidents. I am a second-generation Las Vegan and I have always loved chemistry and alchemy. While studying, I accepted a job called Tequila Goddess where I was able to go to the town of Tequila and start studying in distilleries firsthand. From there I took my passion back to the States where I started bartending, consulting, and competing in mixology competitions. I’ve been fortunate enough to create programs around the Las Vegas strip and steward the city into an era of experiential craft cocktails here at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.
It’s fitting that in Las Vegas even the bars provide a show! You have been named “Top Bartender in Las Vegas” and are well-known for creating something much more than a drink; these are immersive cocktail experiences—could you tell us a bit more about molecular mixology? Where did this start?
I’ve always loved the science of life and storytelling, so I feel like molecular mixology was the perfect outlet for all of my creative energy. I started in my early 20’s in my home kitchen that I designated for all things molecular and have really developed that into a unique style that I use in our Beverage Development Kitchen here on property. I create multi-sensory cocktails that surprise and delight the senses while telling stories and creating a unique experience for our guests. I love using innovative techniques and showstopping garnishes that enhance the experience through artistry.
You have been named as one of the “Top 10 Female Bartenders in the World” in a largely male-dominated area of hospitality, what are some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are now?
I’ve always been very fortunate to have a seat at the table and advocate for other women in my industry.
What are you hoping to help change in the industry over the next year, 5 years, 10 years?
I hope the industry continues to become more inclusive and diverse.
The past year has obviously been really challenging for everyone in the hospitality industry. What has helped keep you busy (and sane) during this time?
This past year inspired me to think differently in the way that I work. I think being vulnerable certainly inspires introspection. During the pandemic, I had a lot of creative energy that I channeled into creating my own product, Electricdust™, and a consulting company, Wanderlush. I also got more time to spend with my family—my incredible husband and my two magical baby boys.
As the new Resort Mixologist for Wynn Las Vegas, you are responsible for updating the cocktail program for the entire resort. What do you see as the next big trend in cocktails for 2021?
I am so fortunate that the Wynn and Encore have so many incredible venues that value artistry, excellence, and innovation in their programs. I have been very busy creating exciting new cocktails and concepts.
I certainly see showstopping garnishes and unique presentations being a big trend of 2021. With the advent of social media and capturing stunning images of the food and cocktails we enjoy, everyone is upping their game.
Do you think the pandemic has change what people expect in Vegas and how you approach your menu creations?
In my experience, people are ready to get out and experience something new. I taught a lot of cocktail classes online during the pandemic because people were just craving unique connections and experiences. Las Vegas is going to do what we do best, put on a show—and I think people are ready for it.
What are your top 5 service tips for dealing with clientele in Las Vegas?
Here in Las Vegas, we are fortunate enough to have people come from all over the world for a luxury one-of-a-kind experience. Anticipatory service is a must— I love to surprise and delight people with personal curated touches.
My service tips are mostly about relating to others and the human experience:
1) be kind and courteous
2) make eye contact and connection
3) care about everyone and everything
4) approach everything like it is a work of art
5) strive to exceed expectations
What are your top 3 can’t-live-without items in your personal liquor cabinet?
Vermouth, Mezcal, Amari
Vermouth: This is a sleeper category. My favorite pour is Blanc Vermouth over ice with a twist of orange.
Mezcal: Such a diverse and dynamic spirit. Grab a few bottles made from different types of agave and regions. Tasting through different styles really captures the passion of the spirit with such vibrancy.
Amari: I love to serve a good digestif after a meal and a great Amaro is a perfect end to a gorgeous meal.
Are there any tricks (or treats) you could recommend for the person who wants to add a little extra magic to their cocktails at home?
Make your own syrups! It’s so easy and such a unique way to impart flavor and personality to your cocktails. Simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water. Heat it on the stove—or microwave, if you’re in a pinch! Add your favorite tea bags, fresh or dried fruits, herbs—any flavor champions— and bring to a boil. Let it infuse for 20 minutes off the heat, then strain and refrigerate.
You must meet people from all over the world—you must have some amazing stories…do you have any funny ones you could tell us?
I do get to meet people from all over the world. I have friends and even honorary “family” members that I’ve met on the job! The very first guests I met on my first day as Tequila Goddess have grown to be what I call my honorary “Grandparents”, as they have followed me and my career for over 15 years now. They visit from Oregon and we trade interesting gifts and liqueurs. Meeting incredibly kind, genuine, and supportive people is one of the best parts of my job.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…except maybe a cocktail recipe? Would you be willing to share a recipe until we can have the full immersive experience?