Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Liquid Lab by Junior Merino 11-01-09

As I arrived to the Liquid Lab venue, I walked into this corridor that was discretely tucked away in the River dale community of the Bronx. The building had no numerical address on it and you would never imagine what was lying behind those secret doors. Upon entry, your warmly greeted by the host Heidi Merino, which she then introduces you to the staff and asks if you can fill out the paperwork to register with the program.

Next, Junior gives you a tour of the mixing lab where you can find everything you'll ever need to make a cocktail! Seriously, I believe he has about 90+% of every puree's, juice's, liqueurs,syrups(including his own brand), herbs, and fruits that's in season and on the market today. Junior explains each herb, spice, and every liquor available to the program. It was just amazing to work with such a massive selection of products! I was a bit overwhelmed and intimidated at first, because you have to create cocktails with 2 different variations from each department.

After the introduction period, you will go into the blind tasting room and watch a presentation by the brands and then sample about 4 different versions. For example, If it's vodka, you would probably have something from Heavy Water, and some brands that you might not have heard of before that's new to the market.

Junior will then ask you about the tasting notes and educate you about how to properly identify what you are nosing and tasting. If your senses are a bit missing(like myself) Junior will help you identify it.

I am an "in-your-face", bold, spicy, peaty smokey whiskey type of woman, with sinus issues, and it has always been very difficult for me to smell anything properly.

There was people there who could pick up on 20 different things, while I can barely pick up 1, 2, or 3 items! When we was in the first few sessions of the blind tastings, I was quiet as a mouse. Trying to understand and figure out what was going on, I struggled to accomplish a sensory awareness.

After that portion, you would go back into the mixing lab and create 2 cocktails using the some of the brands sampled in the tasting room with a couple of recommended products. You will have to make a sample for each participant, including Junior. Now Junior was so very kind, because me and the other participants started out with some "interesting" cocktails that he probably thought was unbalanced, color wasn't on point, and probably didn't taste right!

Good old Junior never said a bad word about anything, but when something was great, he would say in a quiet tone, "Oh, this is good," or "This is great," or "I really like this." Once he says any of those three things, you know you are on the right track.

After 4-5 sessions, you will break for lunch. The staff will prepare you an amazing meal that is cooked with alcohol and about 95% of the dishes contains some libation inspiration(as well as the breakfast snack). When the belly's are full, It is time to finish the session's and then fill out a critique sheet and receive a great goody bag filled with the industry's magazine's, sample bottle's, Juniors trademark gifts , and etc!

After the LAB was completed, Junior and a few others had a opportunity to talk to him about his path in the industry. And what I know for sure about Junior, he is a young, intelligent, gifted, and humble man. He's soft spoken, and respectful. He taught me many things that day. He taught me how in general, to conduct my business.

He told me about how you should treat people and the brands. Also, Junior does not belong to anyone. He would use any brand at his own choosing, as he sees fit. Saying all of that, the conversation we shared together will help me make the right decisions for my journey in this libation world. This conversation was golden, and highly regarded. I will keep that in my heart and in my mind, and never forget anything he taught me. In this 12 hour lab, not only did he teach me to smell again, he also taught me great ethics from his point of view that I will hold deep in my heart, and will never forget him.

Last, the Liquid Lab will take you out to dinner as another awesome thank you gift, which was a great night cap to end the perfect day for anyone in the industry. The whole purpose in creating this lab, is to educate the new and veteran bartender(and affiliates). It's about the opportunity that you would not get from anywhere else. Junior has put together an outstanding program that will elevate your knowledge of the cocktail and expand your knowledge of lesser known items that you wouldn't get a chance to acquire.

The Liquid Lab is the best creation for the community and it is well done by the Merino's!

Here are the CrAzy recipe's I concocted at the Lab:

Vodka Category:
  • 2 oz vodka
The Liquid Chef Hibiscus Syrup
¾ oz Combier
muddled Koppert Cress Shiso Cress
Pisco Category:
  • splash The Liquid Chef Pineapple Passion Mixer
½ oz Vita Coco coconut water
1 ½ oz Macchu Pisco infused with coco leaf
muddled black cardamom
  • ¾ oz Castries
3 drizzles honey
¾ oz Domaine de Canton
1 oz Macchu Pisco
1 oz Hudson Whiskey
Cachaca Category:
  • 2 ½ oz Leblon infused with kaffir lime leaves and green cardamom
½ oz St. Germain
2 wedges muddled sweet lemons
2 oz coco lopez
splash lime juice
  • 2 oz Leblon infused with black cumin, fenugreek leaves, and golden raisins
splash gomme syrup
¾ oz Scorpion Blanco
¾ oz Combier
Koppert Cress Sechuan Buttons, muddled
Rum Category:
  • 2 oz Chairmans
muddled orange
3 dashes orange bitters
splash The Liquid Chef Rose Syrup
1 ½ oz Combier
  • 2 oz Chairmans
muddled blood orange
½ oz blood orange bitters
1 oz house made blood orange syrup
1 oz pineapple juice
1 oz lime juice
Tequila Category:
  • muddled raspberries & sweet limes
3-5 orange slices
1 oz Boiron Lychee puree
2 oz ginger infused Siembra Azul
1 oz lemon juice
splash gomme syrup
Mezcal Category:
  • ½ oz Laphroaig
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz Scorpion Mezcal
¾ oz Royal Combier
splash Maraschino Liqueur
3 drops mesquite oil

Night Cap:

This lab day brought people from the industry, that the majority did not know. I met great bartenders that I don't frequently see, I learned from them and laughed with them. We mixed together in the Lab, and now I have them as me new friends and colleagues. As we speak, some of us are working together, and helping each other business endeavors.

One person that sticks out in my mind the most was Melanie from Macchu Pisco. She has such a vibrant zest for life, very charming, sweet, and kind. From that day, I met her mother Elizabeth, the founder, and her sister Lizzy, the US Ambassador. Now the opportunities for our business will be endless because of the Merinos.

Thank you so much Junior and Heidi! You are greatly appreciated!!

Carmen Operetta

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