The Drink Without the Hangover? Chef Junior Merino Teases New Alcohol-Free Cocktails

The award-winning mixologist behind M Cantina in Dearborn creates alcohol-inspired cocktails for the ‘sober-curious.’

The non-alcoholic cocktail movement is coming from culinary hubs like Chicago, San Diego and New York to metro Detroit — and leading the way is M Cantina, a halal Latin street food eatery, located on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.  

M Cantina’s Executive Chef Junior Merino, an award-winning mixologist and culinary artist from Central Mexico, is all about giving people new and authentic experiences from the diversity of their tacos and tortas to the inclusivity of their drink menu. 

“We can create the flavor of Tequila, so you can have a Margarita that taste just like it but without alcohol.” – Chef Junior Merino

Indulging the sober-curious, a term the New York Times used to identify this shift, Merino activated his mixology skills and crafted a series of booze-inspired cocktails that deliver a kick without the hangover effects. 

M Cantina
M Cantina

“We call it non-alcoholic mixology because the idea comes from mixing,” Merino says. “It’s a mixture of different elements and sometimes spices. In this case, we have non-alcoholic bitters that we’re using,” he says. “Think about flavored water; it contains only flavors, not the real thing. We can create the flavor of Tequila, so you can have a Margarita that taste just like it but without alcohol.”

He adds, “Instead of using rum for Mojitos, we use fresh sugar cane juice. It gives the body and volume that we’re missing from not using alcohol. At the same time, it’s creating an experience that’s going to be very cool and very different.” 

Click the player above to hear Chef Junior Merino mix some alcohol-free cocktails.