What began as a gig as the Tequila Goddess at Las Vegas restaurant Isla Mexican 17 years ago turned into an impressive career in beverage consulting, bartending, spirit specialization and mixology. Mariena Mercer Boarini, resort mixologist, Wynn Las Vegas and our BevX 2022 Raising the Bar Award winner, has made considerable contributions in molecular mixology as well as inspired spirit-free cocktails.
When Boarini started at Isla Mexican in 2005, tequila was an emerging spirit in the U.S., “so it was an exciting time to fall in love with the industry,” she notes. “I started specializing in agave at a young age, when others were not yet working with it,” which was an impetus for her career in adult beverage.
Boarini opened The Cosmopolitan in 2010 as property mixologist and general manager at The Chandelier Bar. “At that time, craft cocktails were a nascent and burgeoning scene — so it was a very exciting project to be part of,” she says.
Her opening menu included the Verbena cocktail, a lemon verbena and ginger-infused Margarita garnished with a “buzz button” flower bud (also called Szechuan button or buddha button). Although the Verbena came off The Chandelier Bar’s menu the following year, it has ended up becoming a best-selling, off-menu phenomena.
Another cocktail Boarini created at The Chandelier Bar was The Schnozberry, her love letter to all things Willy Wonka. “I used a miracle-berry-infused ice sphere, as an Everlasting Gobstopper, and an accoutrement of a Schnozberry flowerpot that was “watered” with liquid nitrogen to release aromatics.”
Fascinated by flavor and the way the senses perceive it, Boarini developed a product called Electricdust during the pandemic. “I created a patent-pending process to turn the buzz button (of Verbena fame) into a dust — and flavored, colored, and added a beautiful iridescence to it.” The dust is added as a rim to cocktails and turns the imbiber into a super taster, intensifying flavors and bringing them on a journey of flavor, she adds.
At Wynn Las Vegas, where she designs for 31 different menus, Boarini recently created several non-alcoholic cocktails. She sees spirit-free drinks becoming a larger part of the bar/restaurant business. “I love being able to provide a nuanced and sophisticated beverage to people that are looking for an alcohol-free option.”
Boarini also developed a line of edible terroir parfums at Wynn’s Overlook Lounge, inspired by the aromatics of glamorous locales.
One cocktail that showcases her love for show-stopping alchemy is The Stepford Wife at Delilah at Wynn. A play on the French 75 cocktail, the drink combines Grey Goose Essences strawberry lemongrass vodka, spiced lychee and rosé Champagne, served in a pink glass with gold dust on the side.
What’s more, Boarini has won titles in “Whiskey for Women,” Bon Appétit’s “Vegas Mix-Off” event and other national competitions. “The Opihr Gin ‘World Adventure Cocktail Competition’ in Morocco, which I won a Global title in the souks of Marrakech against 11 other competitors from around the world, was a dream come true,” she says.
“I would definitely say I’ve hit my stride in creating my distinct style of imaginative, stunning, and immersive experiences that excite and seduce the senses,” Boarini adds. “Each one of my menus at Wynn showcase cerebral high-level concepts and techniques that meet visceral and meaningful stories.”