Spirits of Mexico Judge
‘07, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10
Born in Mexico on June 12, 1976 Junior Merino was exposed to different varieties of spices, fruits, and vegetables which has inspired his present creativity in mixing & matching uncommon ingredients, adding more exotic twists to his original cocktails.
Junior began to learn the intricacies of the Mexican cuisine at the age of ten. He worked diligently along side his mother and father, absorbing his first steps into the world of mixing ingredients. Junior’s most important lesson that he was taught was that love and passion is what gave each meal its sabor (flavor).
In 1993, at the age of 16, Junior Merino arrived in New York and immediately began work as a server assistant at the Boulevard Café (Arc Corp.) for 6 years and eventually worked his way to bartending and managing. All the while Junior went to school to learn English as well as to get his high school diploma. Junior also took a certifying class in computer graphic design as well as the H&R Block Income Tax course. He also took the NY Food Handlers course and became certified.
Opportunity knocked when a colleague of Junior’s from the Boulevard asked him to be the beverage manager of a restaurant that he would be opening called Roth’s Westside Steakhouse. There Junior put together Roth’s wine and cocktail list and designed and printed the restaurant’s menus and business cards. All the while, Junior would invent cocktails in his spare time. It was while working here Junior took courses and was certified from the American Sommelier Association. The Wine Spectator gave the wine list Junior put together an award of excellence and the West Side Spirit recognized the cocktails as the “best cocktails and sangria on the Upper West Side.”
A few months later found Junior Merino on a plane to Las Vegas where he tested and passed the entry-level exams and was initiated into the Court of Master Sommeliers Guild of Sommeliers. Two more grueling exams over the course of the next 4 years will certify Junior as a Master Sommeliers.
Junior has traveled to Cognac where he underwent an intensive course on cognac in which he received a certificate upon completion. He is also certified from the Consejo Regulador del Tequila as a Tequila Connoisseur.
June 2005, Junior entered the International Bar Show’s contest for the best cocktail competition. Competitors from all over the USA competed and Junior was awarded first prize for his cocktail Coming Up Roses. In 2006, Junior was awarded by Starchefs.com a Rising Star Award. Junior also competed in the Bombay Sapphire’s Perfect Pairing Competition and was teamed with Chef Aaron Sanchez. Junior was on the panel of judges for the annual Rhum Clement Cocktail Challenge.
Junior has been mentioned for his creativity in magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and websites such as BBC World Radio, Women’s Wear Daily, The Restaurant News, Seikatzu Press, Cheers, Gourmet, Time Out, NY Magazine, Latina, Beverage Media, The San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Sabores Autenticos de Mexico, cocktailtimes.com, imbiber.com, liveloveleblon.com, youtubevideo.com, NYC and Philly Metro; two popular restaurant and hotel magazines in Germany, two fashion magazines in Japan, one in Peru, two publications in France, a few in Mexico and one in London, England. Televisa News filmed Junior for a segment on Mixology and Telemudo. This is just to name a few of the publications that Junior has been mentioned in.
Junior Merino has created cocktails for Partida Tequila, Siembra Azul Tequila, Leblon cachaca, G’vine Gin, Grey Goose Orange vodka, Christiania vodka, Jaral de Berrio mezcal, just to name a few. He has also created cocktails for ANA Hotel in Tokyo, as well as some restaurants such as Mama Mexico, Walt Disney Coronado Springs Resort, the Hilton in Los Cabos, Café Frida, Bombay Talkie, Rayuela and more. He also created a cocktail for the grand re-opening of Bergdorff Goodman’s Café and the Purple Coming Up Roses for Oprah Winfrey’s Color Purple Show. Junior has donated his services to fundraisers such as the Hedge Funds Care Foundation, the Slice of Latin America fundraiser, and most recently The Wayuu Taya Foundation (founded by Actress/Model Patricia Velazquez).