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Behind the Bar: A coconut margarita with Main St. Grille

Coconut is the theme for July at Main St. Grille in Mishawaka.

When Erin Trippel makes a cocktail for what she calls the flavor of the summer, she coats the rim of a glass with simple syrup before rolling its edge on a plate of white coconut flakes, topping it off with a lime wedge.

The coconut margarita is the downtown bar’s featured monthly special; if the drink sells well enough this month, it joins a list of 23 permanent cocktails.

Trippel became the owner and bartender of Main St. Grille, at 112 N. Main St. in Mishawaka, six years ago after her parents, Chuck and Kelly, were ready to hand off the restaurant they started five years prior.

“Every day is different,” Trippel said. “It’s not what I planned on doing, but it keeps things interesting. I can’t be sitting behind a desk. I like the go-go pace, the excitement.”

The grille is known for its crab cakes, pork chops and rack of lamb, but also for its extensive selection of signature cocktails, which run $7 to $10.50. Every server has basic knowledge of the bar, Trippel said, making seven bartenders in all, but she creates the cocktails. She first started the practice while bartending in Chicago.

“There’s only a few cocktails that have been on the menu since day one,” Trippel said. “I find a combination of flavors I like and just run with it.”

Featured summer cocktail:

Coconut Margarita

  • 2 oz. coconut vodka
  • Cuervo 1800 coconut tequila
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • Lime juice (fresh squeezed)
  • Simple syrup for a coconut-flaked rim

To be shaken and poured over ice

The secret to a perfect cocktail: Simplicity is key. We’re in an age of craft cocktails and there’s so much experimenting, but I think sometimes bartenders take it too far. Sometimes the flavor is best with simple ingredients.

For summer in a glass: Fresh ingredients are big in cocktails, but especially in the summer. Drinks are simpler with more muddling, more fresh herbs. We do a berry mojito here and there with berries I pick up at the market.

Best perk of being a bartender: The best part is meeting new people. We have a solid customer base of regulars but even after 11 years, there’s still someone who always comes in and says, “I didn’t know you guys were here!”

Most bizarre conversation overheard at cocktail hour: We joke amongst ourselves that because we’re so secluded and a lot of people don’t know about us, we’re the place for secret meetings, the spot for people who don’t want to be seen together. I don’t want to say affairs, but you pick up on those things after awhile. There was one secret affair at our restaurant where we got invited to the wedding later. They wanted us to bring our house hummus.

What you wish you didn’t have to deal with: I don’t like the late hours. I’m the owner and bartender, so it can be exhausting. You give up some personal life for it. If my parents hadn’t started the restaurant, I probably wouldn’t still be here, but because it’s a family business, it means more.

What most people don’t know about bartending: Everyone thinks they can make cocktails. They think because they can make a whiskey and coke, they can bartend, but it’s not as easy as it looks.

In case you missed it: last week’s Behind the Bar featured Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Mich.

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