Food News

The Theft of Copper Mugs Has Gotten So Bad the Cost of Moscow Mules is Rising

Fancy a Moscow Mule? The drink that may leave you with a headache in the morning has been the source of far more discomfort for bar owners everywhere. The Wall Street Journal published an article earlier this week about the rampant disappearance of the copper mugs commonly used to serve the tart vodka drinks. Bartenders were going to great lengths -- holding IDs and credit cards; only serving the drinks during the day; only serving them at the bar -- to hold onto their mugs and they were still flying out the door according to the article.

Here in Dallas the problem is just as pronounced, with some bartenders proclaiming an epidemic. They're disappearing at astonishing rates at Vickery Park, the boozy drinker's bar on Henderson Avenue. "Every time we got them in they were stolen in about two days," said Lauryn Berry, a former bar manager who still tends bar there on occasion. Berry said the bar got 80 copper mugs for free as part of a promotion by vodka maker Russian Standard. Subsequent smaller shipments went just as fast until Stoli Vodka delivered mugs that were cheaper and thinner. They were still stolen, just not as quickly, according to Berry. "We have two or three left."

The copper mugs aren't as slippery at HG Sply Co., a paleo-restaurant that opened recently on Greenville Avenue, though according to manager Eric Warner: "It's pretty bad." Warner said they buy additional boxes of the mugs as supplies run low and simply view the expense as a "cost of doing business." When asked if he'd ever consider ditching the mugs, he scoffed. "Without the mug, it's not a Moscow Mule," he said.

Goodfriend started collecting IDs in an attempt to hang on to their mugs, and according to bartender Jacob, it's working, but The Standard Pour in Uptown might have the most simple and effective approach to dealing with the thieves: make everyone else pay for them. Co-founder Brian McCullough said they simply raised the price of the drink by $2 to cover the cost of buying new mugs. And now he's breaking even.

So who's doing the stealing? McCullough claims it's not the typical young punk featured on an ABC after-school special, but the 40-year-old woman with a Gucci purse instead. McCullough describes confronting patrons at tables where the mugs have gone missing and finding them in purses and coats, and alleges one customer stuffed 11 of the mugs in a trash bag before jumping over a fence to leave the restaurant.

If you are wondering why bar owners would go through all this trouble to serve a simple cocktail, just ask McCullough why he doesn't ditch the mugs. "I'd much rather see people with a copper mug in their hand than a Red Bull and vodka," he said, proving the Moscow Mule is as much about the image is it is the drink. And now, at least at The Standard Pour, both are more expensive.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz