Once again Ruka and I were out walking our sandy trail as the sun began to rise over the eastern mountains of the Coachella Valley. Our time here in the desert has been delightful. We've seen the desert change every week. The yellow flowers that blossomed a few weeks ago have been battered by the sand filled winds that sweep across the valley floor. The grass that grows in little tufts, like hair plugs. have gone from being green to being golden brown. Now, more often, you see the tumbleweed rolling across the desert. The wind has been a constant thing here at Two Springs. So, it makes sense to have used the area west of here as a wind farm. Scores of turbines spin to produce the clean energy we so desperately need. Daily, as the sun goes down, the gigantic blades of the wind turbines cast a shadow upon our site. The climate has begun to change, as spring comes to an end, and summer awakens upon us. The temperatures will continue to rise and the winds will slow to nil.
I asked Ruka what she thought about going back to Las Vegas. She said, "I liked Vegas, the burger was great and it was awesome to hang out, especially at the WorldMark Resort river pool.” Well, I said, I want to go back and visit the Cosmopolitan Casino. I would like to meet the mixologist that works there in the Chandelier Bar. "Okay," she says to me, "let's do it, it sounds like fun."
"What makes the Chandelier Bar a special place is that Mariena Mercer continues to create new cocktails, every time you come back there is something new to try."
Well off we went to Las Vegas it's only a few hours’ drive from Two Springs, but this time we stayed at the WorldMark on Spencer Street. Ruka and I settled in for the night in our one bedroom condo. The next day, shortly before noon, I wrestled out of bed, put on some decent clothes, and headed down to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I had to see the Chandelier Bar for myself.
I’d seen the photos and read the articles and they showed an opulent room that spanned three different levels of the interior of the Boulevard Tower. It’s hard to pull out one word that catches it all, maybe “magnificent”, it really doesn’t make it to gaudy, and it’s well beyond interesting. But what’s at the core of the bar is the mixologist that runs the whole show. Her name is Mariena Mercer. I was lucky enough to get a chance to meet with her and I was very excited about that. If you come to Las Vegas you must check this place out.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas caught my attention with the first whiff. Unlike other casinos that I’ve been to that smell of old tobacco and well, depends, there is none of that here. Bright, fresh, clean, the first floor is, of course, where all the gaming takes place. It seemed to me that the casino was very spacious, but then I guess you don't find too many people gambling around noon. I took the escalator upstairs to an open atrium that is filled with the glorious Chandelier Bar. The chandelier envelops the entire bar from the third floor, over the mid-level mezzanine down to the second floor. Seriously, …props to the person who designed this place. Somehow this place finds the balance between grand and grandiose.
I arrived there early so I could have a chance to see the numerous restaurant venues that
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas presents before the crowds arrive.
Here are some of the venues.
Beauty & Essex
E` by Jose` Andres
Rose, Rabbit, Lie.
Yet the Chandelier Bar seems to be the center of attention. What makes the Chandelier Bar a special place is that Mariena Mercer continues to create new cocktails, every time you come back there is something new to try. From all accounts, she has created well over a hundred and fifty drinks in her brief history as a mixologist. I dare say there is no one who can compete with her creativity and enthusiasm in finding the balance in a good drink. For her, each drink is an artistic expression, created to revamp an old recipe, to be paired with the cuisine, or it’s a recipe from the outer reaches of her cranium. Well, I’ve been around the bar scene for years, from coast to coast and border to border, but I have yet to find anyone that can match what Mariena Mercer has done or what she is doing.
Let me tell you a little bit about her. “… she presides over a beverage production test kitchen, tinkering with ingredients and dreaming up [drink] menus for one of the largest fresh beverage programs in the world.” Her drinks appear in several venues. In another article I read, she told the story about the opening of the Chandelier Bar. “There were nights I slept here,” she says, looking through Chandelier’s glittering ropes to the casino beyond. “This is my crystal castle. Opening a property, putting so much care into it before anyone else has seen it and thinking, ‘I’ll never see it like this again’—…., just me and the Chandelier.” Well having opened around twenty different venues, I can completely relate to the feeling you get being in a space before the crowds arrive, working diligently to get everything in its proper place.
Curiously enough she studied chemistry in college. Does that help her in this job? “Absolutely. I think my brain always thinks in that kind of method. I love alchemy and the way things mix, whether it's chemical or culinary or cocktails. I'm just fascinated with how things mix, or acidity, or how things become better or change speeds. I was fortunate to carve out my own style. Growing up, my idols were Willy Wonka and Bill Nye the Science Guy. I'd like to think I've grown into a combination of the two.” Well, I don’t know about her being part Willy Wonka, but I do know that she started out in the bar business being called the “Tequila Goddess” because she spent time in Mexico doing a deep dive into Tequila when she was 21. She then fell in love with mixing cocktails in a Steakhouse, the same sort of place I got my start bartending. Now I would call her the “Empress of the Elixir” way, way, way out pacing the “King of Cocktails.”
Here are some of the drinks she has created
DEVIL MAY CARE, Chipotle Vodka, house made Bloody Mary mix, Fresh Cucumber & Dill, Sriracha Gastrique
THE ROYAL TENENBAUM, Jalapeno Sauza 901 Tequila, Combiner Pamplemousses Rose, fresh Lemon, Cilantro, house made Ginger-Tamarind Syrup topped with Cucumber Soda
AMERICAN GOTHIC, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon, Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur, Amaro Meletti, house made spiced Chai-Masala Tea Syrup, Chocolate Mole Bitters
THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Teeling’s Irish Whiskey, Stillhouse Cinnamon Moonshine, Noilly Pratt Ambre Vermouth, house made Cassia-Cardamon Tea Syrup, Apple Juice, Tarragon
SUMMER OF LOVE, Charbay Meyer Lemon Vodka, Bols Yogurt Liqueur, Fresh lemon Calamansi, Grand Poppy Seed Liqueur, topped with Cream Cheese Frosting Espuma
MONKEY’S UNCLE, Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, Crème De Banana, Cream, Nutella, house made Cinnamon-Vanilla Syrup
LOST IN TRANSLATION, Yamazaki 12 single-malt whisky, Banana, Coconut, Matcha tea, Lavender Honey, Ginger, and Sesame. Green tea and Sea Salt rim
OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS, Xante Pear Cognac, Creole Shrub, Vanilla Liqueur, Lemon, Ancho Chai Masala Tea
BON VIVANT, Tequila, Mezcal, Vermouth, Amaro Meletti
THE LIBERTINE, Whiskey, lemon, rosemary & orange marmalade topped with a maple syrup.
It won the Whiskey for Women competition and is a modern play on the Whiskey Sour.
THE COSMOPOLITAN OF LAS VEGAS, Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Lemon, Cranberry Syrup, & White Cranberry juice.
These are just a glimpse of Mariena Mercer’s artistic creations.
I’m sure you’ll hear more from her, stay tuned…..
Let’s see what else I can find in Las Vegas
Please log on to ChasingCuisine.com and follow my journey….
Enjoy life, drink responsibly.
© Copyright Chasing Cuisine 2017 all rights reserved
Author : Neal Murray
Designed By : Sean Derning