Adventures of the Liquid Chef: Cocktails on the High Seas

In order to be certified, bartenders had to pass a test with both written and practical components.

In order to be certified, bartenders had to pass a test with both written and practical components.  (Courtesy of Junior Merino)

Just recently, my team and I traveled to Eemshaven, Holland, to board Silhouette, the fourth ship in a series of five for Celebrity Cruises Solstice Class. 

I was going to be training the bartenders for the Molecular Bar, my new joint venture with the ship line. The bar—a place that until now has relied mostly on mixes, powders and other time-savers—had been under-performing, so Celebrity asked me to bring high-concept mixology to the high seas. 

Silhouette would be docked in Holland until we made the journey to Hamburg, Germany, where she would be formally named in an official ceremony.

Upon arrival, my team and I marveled at the ship. One of the first things you see is a real tree suspended in its own “vase” in the three-story-high grand atrium. We rode glass elevators to our floor and were ushered in to amazing staterooms with a balcony that overlooked a scenery of ships, windmills, and seagulls. 

Then it was off to work…

There are three words sum up the Molecular, or M Bar: Fresh, fresh, and innovative. We will only serve fresh juices and produce and try to be as organic as possible. And we’ll bring innovation to the cocktail scene at sea by introducing liquid nitrogen, foam, gourmet salts, and creative infusions.

My team and I ran a four-day, intensive training schedule that covered not just the concept and cocktails that we make, but also knowledge on spirits, distillation, processes, and techniques. 

This is serious business: Upon completion of the training, our hand-picked bartenders had to pass a test (with both written and practical components) in order to be certified Molecular Bartenders. They’ll serve the almost 2,900 guests that board per cruise.

Cocktails include my signature Coming Up Roses, a blend of raspberry rum, rose essence, rose petals, lime and champagne. And, as the bar’s signature cocktail, Dragonfly, a mix of hibiscus, vodka, aloe juice, and liquid nitrogen.

Unfortunately, after being on board for six days, our stay had to come to an end. We had to be in New Orleans in 48 short hours for Tales of the Cocktail—the annual conference nicknamed “Sundance for Bartenders.” I was participating in a seminar called “Tequila’s Rise and Redemption.”

Off we went!

Junior Merino has created cocktail menus for clients across the world, including Epcot Center, Mexicana Airlines, the Modern at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the ANA Hotel in Tokyo. He’s also worked with celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, and Patricia Velasquez. He grew up in the Mixteca region of Mexico. He'll be blogging regularly for Fox News Latino.

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