Not many people can claim the title of tequila goddess. It turned out to be the job that launched the career of Mariena Mercer Boarini who now reigns as mixology royalty on the Las Vegas Strip.
The second-generation Las Vegas native, a rarity in this city, grew up enthralled with the glamour of the Strip, though she was only allowed to visit once a year on her birthday. Everything changed when she was offered a newly created role: tequila goddess. The job would mean traveling to the town of Tequila, Mexico, visiting distilleries and immersing herself in the terroir. “I did what any 21-year-old would do,” recalls Boarini. “I said, ‘Sign me up,’ and got on a plane.”
Becoming a tequila specialist “furthered my love for molecular chemistry and alchemy,” she explains “I just fell in love with the making of cocktails.” Her career trajectory was set.
In time, her home kitchen would come to double as a laboratory where she developed many of her signature techniques such as “champ-feign” foam–a froth that emulates champagne, adds texture to the cocktail and becomes a platform for her edible art garnishes.
“Innovation has always been my jam,” says Boarini.
For a decade, Boarini was the property mixologist at The Cosmopolitan casino-resort. Her show-stopping cocktails won awards and earned her top spots on “best bartender’” lists. In 2015, she entered the International Opihr World Adventure Cocktail Competition in Marrakech, Morocco, vying with bartenders from around the globe. Contestants had two hours to barter for ingredients at the local spice market and then come up with an original cocktail. Her “Classy Lassi” wowed the judges and nabbed her first prize.
Earlier this year, Boarini signed on with Wynn Las Vegas where she is reinventing the cocktail menus of more than two dozen restaurants and lounges at the Wynn and Encore resorts. For Boarini, it’s much more than introducing new cocktails. It’s about creating meaningful guest experiences.
“My style is storytelling,” says Boarini. “That’s one of the reasons I got into cocktails—because every spirit has an amazing story. There’s the cerebral side where I get to figure out the chemistry. Then there’s the part where I get to tell stories through the cocktail, and the bartenders get to tell those stories to guests.”
Photo credit: Eric Jamison
WHY BARFLY MIXOLOGY GEAR
“Having the proper tools is really important. It’s all about precision. Ingredients like juices and spirits have very different viscosities. They pour at different speeds. It’s very important to jigger-pour your measurements, and having these well-designed tools makes it make it easier to be a great bartender and build great cocktails.”