Memorial Day Weekend, 2013
This past winter, I had the good fortune to experience a press voyage aboard Celebrity Cruise Line’s newest addition to their cruise fleet. Celebrity Reflection is based out of Miami and offers Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.
While aboard the Celebrity Reflection, I was able to meet Junior Merino—a.k.a. THE LIQUID CHEF—who consults with Celebrity on their beverage program. In this particular setting, Junior and his team were wowing the crowds with his cool and over-the-top nitrogen cocktails that were served at the Molecular Bar. With great energy and aplomb, Junior’s personality and “smokin’ dry-ice beverages” transported guests into the future of sipping cocktails, depicting a surreal Star Wars ambiance. Since meeting Junior on that cruise, I have followed his unique and varied style of cocktail couture.
Junior Merino created the LIQUID CHEF in 2006 to showcase his knowledge of the artistry and mix-ability of ingredients and liquors from around the world. A LIQUID TEAM of highly trained mixologists, who were inspired by Junior’s passion of craft, was added to handle demand and liquid innovation. Always eager to share his extensive knowledge of spirits and ingredients, Junior has been featured in Gourmet, Marie Claire, Time Out, Latina, the New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, and New York Magazine, among many others, and has appeared on BBC Radio, Martha Stewart Radio and Televisa. Junior is currently working on a new show called “The Liquid Chef.”
According to Junior, “Balance and harmony are the essential qualities driving the artful execution of an elegant cocktail. The cocktail should be served with food or any occasion that is uniquely suited to it. Fresh, quality ingredients, the complexity of their flavors, evolve with the collaborative talents of Mixologist and Chef. The result is a perfect pairing of food and drink. Junior identifies five elements contributing to an enjoyable and memorable cocktail. First—the visual, the beauty of the creation. Second—the scent of the combined ingredients. Third—taste; the harmonious interplay of all parts. Fourth—balance; the creation of something greater than the sum of the parts. Fifth—the human element; the dedication, passion, the knowledge and respect.”
Just in time for Memorial Day and the upcoming summer, Junior shares one of his favorite warm weather libation. Step away from the typical fruit salad and add a little heat to your cookouts. Merino takes the grilled fruit trend to another level of sweet; by grilling fruit, sugar caramelizes to produce a sweet-meets-smokey flavor. Junior utilizes that coveted charred blend for his CUBICO, a unique grilled-cocktail creation that uses some of his new Dainzu syrup flavors … so check out the recipe and fire up the grill.
- 1.5 ounces of Tequila Reposado
- ½ ounce of Navan, a vanilla liquor
- ½ ounce of Dainzu Agave Nectar
- ¾ of an ounce of Grilled Pineapple Juice – step-by-step below
- 1 ounce of Lemon Juice
- Rim the glass with the Dainzu Hawaiian Volcanic Lava Saffron Rimmer
- A squeeze of Lemon
- Garnish with a triangular piece of the Pineapple
To make the Grilled Pineapple Juice
- Start with a not too-ripe Pineapple to get just-the-right acidity
- Cut pineapple in 1-inch circles
- Place on grill for approximately 8 minutes on each side
- Since Pineapple creates a lot of smoke put out the exhaust
- Extract the Pineapple Juice while it’s still warm – if you don’t have an extractor, put in a blender and use a strainer to catch the pulp, muddle, then put it through a strainer
- The Pineapple Juice can stay fresh for a week
The Liquid Chef has distinguished himself as the originator of mixology. Merino’s extensive knowledge includes aroma architecture, spirit analysis, cocktail experimentation and a unique fusion of kitchen and bar.