Inspired by pop-up restaurants in California, St. Louis and around the U.S., friends Richard Trippler and Aaron Rostad jokingly threw around ideas for a cocktail truck or a pop-up bar late one night at Sycamore, where Rostad bartended at the time.
Trippler left and had another drink elsewhere and by the time he got home that night, Rostad had started a Twitter account for @CoMingle573 and the pop-up bar became a reality. Their first tweet is dated April 10.
CoMingle partners with local bars during their slower hours or hours during which the bars would normally be closed, and essentially serves as the businesses’ guest bartenders for a set amount of hours. They create a unique five-drink menu for each event. Trippler says the drinks may not be revisited again, so you know you are a getting a one of a kind and possibly a once in a lifetime drink.
The duo behind CoMingle doesn’t suffer from a lack of creativity when it comes to mixing drinks.
With Trippler working as a bar manager at The Club at Old Hawthorne and Rostad working (at the time) as a bartender at Sycamore, this new venture has allowed them to have creative license with cocktails, making them as outlandish as they want.
“Sometimes a clever name pops into our head,” Rostad says. “We did a ‘Wake Me Up Before You CoMo’ at a brunch-inspired event. The name came first and then we fit a recipe to it.”
Before their first event at Sycamore, Rostad says he admitted to Trippler that he had always wanted to use a miniature rubber duck as a garnish.
“What if we just turned the Grey Goose (vodka) into a pretty blue color with some other ingredients and floated a duck on it and called it ‘The Duck Duck Goose’?” Rostad says.
For those looking to enjoy a good cocktail and avoid the college bar scene, there are places around town that offer great cocktail menus. CoMingle is bringing an excitement to the cocktail scene and getting people to check out local bars they may not have previously visited.
“Cocktail culture in Columbia as a whole is on the rise, and what we are doing with CoMingle is just a part of that,” Rostad says. “If that means people are coming into Sycamore and going toward cocktails over beer or wine – great! And if they are doing it at Tellers or Bleu or wherever else, I think we are just part of the rising tide of cocktail culture in Columbia.”
If you are new to trying cocktails or aren’t sure what you would like, Trippler and Rostad suggest you have a conversation with the bartender and leave it in the hands of the experts.
CoMingle’s menus leave out the long list of ingredients for each drink that is common for many bars, and instead only give the name of the drink and the main spirit.
“Basically we are saying jump in and trust...that our combined experience is going to make something you will like,” Rostad says.
“It also encourages the conversation…maybe you will be adventurous and do it, Trippler adds. “Or, it will foster the conversation where they will come to us and ask us about it.”
Rostad recently moved to Oklahoma, seemingly throwing a wrench in their new business. They don’t see it that way; Rostad has started another Twitter account, @CoMingle405, for the Oklahoma City area.
He plans to return to Columbia once a month for their pop-ups here in town, and he hopes to have Trippler join him in Oklahoma for a pop-up event there each month.
When asked about where they see this venture going, they both agree they have no long-term plans
“There is no end game,” Trippler says. “We’ll do this until people are tired of it, or until we are tired of it.”
CoMingle currently uses only social media to connect with Columbia followers and drop hints about the details leading up to each pop-up. This has garnered excitement from locals looking for something fun and new.
During the June 10 pop-up at Dogmaster Distillery, which was picnic-themed and highlighted Dogmaster vodka and whiskey, attendance was high and high-energy. People watched with intent as Trippler and Rostad carefully crafted each cocktail. A few friends teasingly heckled the duo, and the whole atmosphere was jovial.
Chris Perlow, a bartender at Bleu and former co-worker of Trippler, attended the June 10 event.
“It’s a cool concept,” Perlow says. “I didn’t understand the idea of a pop-up bar, and I’m still not sure I get the logistics, but I would definitely check it out again. I like that you get to guess what’s in the drinks.”
At the Dogmaster event on June 10th, the menu included a DD 573 cocktail which highlighted a smoked version of Dogmaster Distillery Whiskey. It also showcased Dogmaster vodka and muddled watermelon in Watermelon Smash, as well as Dogmaster’s first release of an aged whiskey in the drink Shock Collar.
This kind of event lends itself not only to people trying something new but getting to support local businesses in the process.
“For us...it’s more than just the drinks, it’s the things that go around that, like the people we partner with,” Rostad says. “Not every location is right, not every partnership is right. We want to foster the culture and advance the opportunities Columbia has to experience a cool, unique event that centers around our passion.”
The events’ menus are theme-specific and hand-sketched by Meaghan Olsen, a longtime friend of Trippler’s.
“We want people to think of it as kind of like their concert poster or ticket stub,” Trippler says.
A plus for guests — with the duo’s unique drinks come vibrant and welcoming personalities. This guarantees any visit to CoMingle, wherever it may pop up next, will be an event to remember.