Mariena Mercer Takes You Down The Rabbit Hole At The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas With “Alice In Wonderland,” Space-Inspired Cocktails

Mariena Mercer is a modern-day mad scientist. In her cocktail lab (a.k.a. beverage product kitchen) at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, the Chef Mixologist experiments with syrups, infusions, garnishes and spirits for 16 different menus worth of creative, cool and often kooky cocktails.

It’s a feat of culinary prowess, but also science, combining new and exciting cocktail elements such as tongue-tingling paper.

“I get to amalgamate my passions: cocktails, culinary, and alchemy,” says Mercer. “I am literally always designing new cocktails and experiences for guests. Mixing cocktails is a science for me and I love trying out new ingredients and seeing how solutions develop.”

mariena-mercerPhoto Credit: Facebook

Making drinks for the Cosmopolitan, in particular, is a dream come true for Mercer who earned the title Tequila Goddess for Treasure Island Hotel & Casino at the tender drinking age of 21. Joining the Cosmopolitan by way of the Silverton Casino Hotel in 2010, she strives to create an experience, not just a great tasting drink.

“We pride ourselves on being the curious class, and I make sure my cocktails live up to that,” explains Mercer. “Our guests are unique, adventurous and always up for trying something new and exciting.”

Before going anywhere near a bottle or a glass, Mercer builds her cocktails on paper. From there, she fills in the storyline by layering flavors and spirits. Next, she would normally taste the creations and make her final tweaks, but eight of her menus were designed during pregnancy. The now new mom had to trust her instinct “and my internal Rolodex of flavors.”

Mercer’s greatest hit is The Verbena, a secret cocktail served only on the middle level of the three-story, crystal-encased The Chandelier cocktail lounge.

Screen-Shot-2018-03-27-at-2.59.22-PM-600x449Photo Credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

A margarita with an Asian flare, the mixture of Herradura Blanco, ginger syrup, lemon juice and Yuzu Sour is garnished with a Szechuan surprise; a flower “buzz button” created by Mercer with a natural alkaloid to speed up your salivary glands and enhance the drink’s flavor.

“Everywhere I go people want to talk about The Verbena, so that’s really special,” says Mercer. “To date, we’ve sold over a million because it is a story worth telling.”

Mercer’s most astronomical creations were designed for the resort’s Opium Theater, home to Opium, a newish Spiegelworld show from the creators of Absinthe. The space-themed collection of “Spocktails” includes brightly-colored concoctions with garnishes like Jell-O shots and push pops, served in transparent bags.

The Kiss My Asteroid is Mercer’s current favorite from the Opium menu. Made with Belvedere Peach Nectar, Soho Lychee Liqueur, Lillet Rosé, Fassionola syrup, lemon juice and strawberry fig vinegar, it’s served with cubed ice and a julep scoop of apple pearls in a bag topped with Gruet BdB Champagne, banded and garnished with Pop Rocks.

Kiss My Asteroid Cosmopolitan CocktailPhoto Credit: Anthony Mair

“It’s a serious cocktail that I’ve made fun and whimsical,” she says. “You can’t help but smile when you have one!”

Other Spocktails include The Gorgon’s Revenge, a margarita with bitter orange liqueur, yuzu “blood moon” sour and pineapple chipotle syrup that’s garnished with a blood orange chip; An out-of-world Moscow MuleThe SputNIK Cage, served with an astronaut wafer garnish; and The Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, a reddish riff on a Boulevardier.

Things only get “curiouser and curiouser” from there. Mercer has also fashioned some cocktails after animated pop-culture classic “Alice in Wonderland” produced by Walt Disney Productions in 1951 and based on the books by iconic author Lewis Carroll.

In honor of the Disney film’s 65th anniversary this week on July 26, here are the recipes for three of Mercer’s technicolor creations, each seeking inspiration from the cult classic.

White Rabbit – at Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

White Rabbit alice in wonderland cosmopolitan cocktailPhoto Credit: Christina Barrueta

1 oz St. George Terroir Gin
1 oz Luxardo Bianco Bitter
1 oz Yzaguirre Blanco Vermouth
Dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
2 “Ears” of sage
1 Blood orange chip

Inspired by the sometimes pompous, occasionally groveling and often late white rabbit in “Alice In Wonderland,” The White Rabbit is an embittered and clear Negroni with a terroir-driven gin and a soft Spanish vermouth. Served at modern supper club Rose. Rabbit. Lie., the cocktail’s strange spirit animal epitomizes the venue itself, a blur between the borders of restaurant, bar, nightclub and live entertainment.

Always wanted to know what it’s like in Wonderland? Just ask Alice. Or better yet, follow this curious cocktail to the bottom of the glass for a trippy trip down the rabbit hole. Drink a few and you’ll know exactly how she felt on her peculiar and colorful journey.

Just don’t forget this is Vegas. The Queen of Hearts and her minions of playing cards are out there waiting on the casino floor. Don’t lose your head!

We’re All Mad Here – at the Chandelier

We're All Mad Here alice in wonderland cosmopolitan cocktailPhoto Credit: Anthony Mair

1.5 oz Empress Indigo Gin
.5 oz Soho Lychee
.5 oz St. Germain
1 oz H20 Apple Rosewater
1 oz Lemon juice
.5 oz Chardonnay
Dash Cardamom
Ginger syrup

Transformative and interactive, We’re All Mad Here incorporates color-changing Empress Indigo Gin, a brilliant spirit from Victoria Distillers that’s infused with magical Butterfly Pea Flower. The flower has a low PH balance so the blue hue changes in color right before your eyes to purple and pink when mixed with citrus … much like a grinning and mischievous Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland.”

Served on the middle level of the three-story The Chandelier, the garnish includes a mint sprig, a Viola flower and a fruit leather “buzz button” to make you a “supertaster” as Mercer describes it. When your mouth gets goosebumps and the drink’s flavors seem to flood your senses, don’t worry, you aren’t slipping into madness. “As your tongue tingles, it makes you taste different nuances and flavors in the cocktails and is definitely an unforgettable experience,” explains Mercer.

This is a drink that the Mad Hatter would most certainly serve at his tea party.

Through The Looking Glass – at Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

Through The Looking Glass alice in wonderland cosmopolitan cocktailPhoto Credit: Courtesy The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

1.5 oz Patron Reposado Tequila
.25 oz Silencio Mezcal 
.5 oz Novo Fogo Cachaca
.5½ oz Giffard’s Passionfruit
1 oz Lime
1.5 Pineapple chipotle
2 oz Pineapple juice
1 oz clarified milk per cocktail
Mint sprig garnish

Served in The Porthole, a rapid-infusion chamber invented by Crucial Detail, The Through the Looking Glass houses nectarines, kaffir lime leaf, star anise, pineapple key and a blood orange chip. On the menu at Rose. Rabbit. Lie., this milk-clarified margarita utilizes the 17th-century milk punch process, which leaves the cocktail as clear as a looking glass.

The name comes from the 1871 sequel to Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). It’s the book that introduced the Jabberwocky, The Walrus and the Carpenter and Tweedledum and Tweedledee to our mad world.

After drinking this fantastical libation, your perception of reality may never be the same.