How A Pandemic-Forced Pivot Saw A Surfer-Owned Restaurant Sling 8000 Cans Of Bottlegger Margy Mix In A Single Day - Stab Mag
Italo, mid-pivot at Narrabeen. Photo by Matt Dunbar.

How A Pandemic-Forced Pivot Saw A Surfer-Owned Restaurant Sling 8000 Cans Of Bottlegger Margy Mix In A Single Day

The story of MEXINK Margaritas is bizarre and inspiring.

Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Narrabeen is a tight-knit community. 

Everyone knows every one type-of-thing. On any given morning swim you might bump into ten people for a brief exchange of pleasantries. 

The waves at Narrabeen are the cornerstone of its community. No Australian beach really comes close to rivaling Narra’s pedigree of high-achievers: Simon Anderson, Nathan Hedge, Damien Hardman, Joel & Terry Fitzgerald, Col Smith, Laura Enever, Nathan Webster, Ozzy Wright, Davey Cathels, Cooper Chapman, Jordy Lawler, and Dylan Moffat to name a few.

Lots of talent cut their teeth here. Photo by Matt Dunbar

And hey, someone (literally) has to feed all that talent. 

Mexicano is one of Narra’s landmark businesses, situated behind the spinifex on Ocean Street. Founded by brothers Kieron and his brother Sean Prenter and Nathan (Noodles) Webster in 2010, it’s built a reputation as a local favorite for its delish Mexican food, fiery cocktails and thumping parties. 

After Laura Enever won the Australian Open at Manly in 2015 the after-party was held at Mexicano. Everything was on the house. A proper belter, as the locals may call it… Mexicano didn’t mind getting short-changed, “It was one of those, ‘How often do these kinds of things come around?’ situations,” says Kieron. 

The crew at the Mex have made multiple good-faith gestures over the years, sponsoring surfers, hosting events and donating prizes to their local Boardriders club. Business decisions one would hope come out in the wash via the mysterious workings of either consumer psychology, karma or both. The bottom-line, however, is that generosity has a cost. 

Mexicano has always been a well-trafficked venue. But Covid hit the hospitality industry hard.

A little context for those of us not in Australia: Melbourne has been the most locked down city in the world during Covid. The city’s residents spent 245 days at home with some of the more strict restrictions on the planet. People were going fucking nuts, as anyone would when stuck indoors alone or with entire household without respite, day-in, day-out, with end often feeling so far out of sight. 

While Narrabeen, 905 kilometres away, suffered a little less dreary fate, they still got hammered with more than 100 days of continuous lockdown measures restricting business and travel. Restaurants got shafted as ‘non-essential businesses.’ Kitchens closed, staff were released, and staying afloat became a real struggle. If you didn’t have your books in order, even qualifying for government business grants became a major hassle. 

Jords Lawler missed out on CT qualification this year by one place. Luckily, he’s got some good folks in his corner. Photo by Matt Dunbar

What’s that saying again, “When the tide runs out you’ll see who’s been swimming in the nude?” Fortunately for Mex, they had still had their pants on, and the local community was there to support it while less fortunate businesses had to tuck their junk between their legs in a waddle of misfortune. 

Kieron, now the sole owner of the business, knew he needed to pivot when the pandemic came to town. “I was wondering how I was going to get my kids through school. I don’t own houses, I’ve put all my life into my business. He just needed to find a way to survive.”

In hindsight, his tack couldn’t have been any more masterfully timed, and would see the business sailing downwind with the spinnaker up while the other ships knocked against each other in the harbour docks. 

And what was his genius stroke of insight? 

Making the fucken spiciest Margaritas money can buy. On their best day, it’d see them making more than $80,000 of sales in a single day. Karma had come back to repay its debts, and then some. 

Jordy, spice-powered slob. Photo by Matt Dunbar

In March 2020, after Covid orders shut customers from dining in, there was a lot of grey areas in terms of what hospitality venues could and couldn’t do. Mex started offering Margs in milkshake containers as a side-hustle. “I’d just got back from Indo and asked my manager how many we were selling,” says Kieron. “They were flying off the shelf. At this point it was takeaway only and selling booze takeaway was kind of a grey area.”

My next thought was, “Alright, well these look fucked in plastic containers. It’d be sick to get something branded with our name on it. I started thinking jam jars, like the ones your nana would keep stuff in, but it didn’t look good so we moved onto cans, which is kinda Margy sacrilege.”

“On a whim we brought a case of cans and a canning machine. I came up with a couple different names in my head and just slapped the labels straight on ‘em. We were losing money at this point, and at the same time my wife’s business shat it so the pressure was fucking gnarly. We had waitresses doing courier jobs, it was a total shit fight,” adds Kieron. 

MF, bout to rip the lid of one. Photo by Matt Dunbar.

But slowly the word was getting out. The mix was incredible, and with everyone working from home, folks were looking for any reason to get out of the house. The lines started getting longer. Within a few weeks, there were surreal zombie style mobs, news networks and camera crews, cops. Proper mania. 

The cans started popping everywhere on social media unprompted. With little to do, locals started going for wanders, and having a can was a nice escape from what at the time was a monotonous, locked-down existence. Free promotion. “We’ll take it,” says Kieron. 

Interestingly, as these became popular the police popped in (because there were a lot of people cruising the beach with a drink) and said these drinks might need to be in cans, and keep an eye on things for obvious reasons. The Mex started sending staff members out to clean up strewn empties. 

The Mex kitchen caught fire earlier this year. Flaming hot Margies were suspect.

“On New Year’s Eve I’m pretty sure we did $70,000 or $80,000 in a day. We literally ran out of alcohol so I sent my daughters down to the suppliers in Botany and picked up $15,000 worth of tequila and triple sec. People were buying dozens at a time. It was nuts. Mom and Dad rocked up and asked if they could help. I told my Dad, ‘Go to Dee Why, go to Bayfields, call me when you get there.’ He gets there and I’m like, “Buy every single bottle of tequila.” He bought every single bottle of tequila that was there, all the Jose’s, the Sierra’s, everything.“

Long story short, after a non-stop day and night with all hands on deck, they’d amassed an ungodly sum of money and realised they needed to legitimise a business out of it. 

Thus, MEXINK was born. Canned margaritas you can buy in-store or online. 

Thirst trap.

“I was going into bottle shops unannounced and just said, ‘Look, We’ve got four flavors, the Jalapeno, the Shake, the Coco-Ho, and the Passion fruit. They taste amazing, they’re 13% alcohol, and 2.56 ABV. I’ll leave these with you and get back to you tomorrow.” Then the phone would ring the next day.

“We’re currently going through about 2000 cans a week at $35 a pop,” adds Kieron. “It is just nice to know that after all these years those sacrifices have paid off. You go from, ‘Fuck, how am I going to provide for not just my family but my staff?’ To, “Oh my God, this is actually going to work. I’ve jumped far ahead before with things, and I think that I’ve been through enough shit in my life and I’m ready now. Now’s my time actually to put everything that I’ve learned in business and play it the right way.”

Historically, canned cocktails haven’t worked in Australia. They are in MEXINK’s case. At the time of the interview, Kieron’s house looked like a scene out of Breaking Bad. Cardboard boxes strewn all over, empty kegs, bootlegger paraphernalia. The product ticks every box in our eyes, these are arguably better than any cocktail you can make at home, and it’s as simple as a glass with ice, crack and pour. 

You can get your hands on a MEXINK mix here

We suggest ordering several dozen.