Advertisement
  1. News

Some Moscow Mule drinkers have sticky fingers

The Moscow Mule is traditionally served in a copper mug, but restaurants like Z-Grille have seen the mugs disappear.
Published Jan. 5, 2015

The Moscow Mule, a mix of ginger beer, lime juice and vodka, hit the Tampa Bay scene about two years ago in a shiny copper mug not long after it was named one of Oprah's favorite things. But as the cocktail has become more popular so have the mugs, worth about $20 each. Now a growing number of proprietors are forced to serve the concoction, which ranges from about $8 to $12, in glasses or ask customers for collateral in exchange for the drink.

About $15,000 worth of copper mugs slipped out the doors of Datz in South Tampa over 17 months, according to owner Suzanne Perry.

"We were all about having the correct presentation. We spent a good deal of money on real copper mugs," she said. "Unfortunately, they went missing at a rather fast pace. We 'lost' over a dozen a week."

Now Datz serves the Moscow Mule only in a glass and doesn't even list it on its menu, though a photo of one once graced the cover.

"The cooler it is the faster it gets stolen," said Zack Gross, owner of Z-Grille in downtown St. Petersburg. He knew the copper mugs were getting lifted nationwide so when he got a dozen a few months ago he decided the restaurant would ask customers to hand over their driver's licenses as a deposit of sorts to be returned when the cup comes back.

"We've had pretty good success with that so far. We did have one swiped that no one noticed. Another guy we caught on camera stealing one," he said.

The Moscow Mule, which was supposedly invented in the United States in the 1940s but took the name Moscow because of the vodka, is the third-best selling cocktail at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. It's behind the Mojito and Bloody Mary. The hotel has sold 450 of them — in a glass — in the past three months.

The Vinoy made the switch from copper last year after a few dozen cups "found their way out the door," according to beverage and food manager Alex Bolstridge.

"But you can tell from our sales (the switch to glass) hasn't impacted its popularity," she said. "The copper is a cute look. It's supposed to keep the items fresher and cooler and bring out the freshness of the lime."

Since the Vinoy uses all fresh ingredients and they can be seen better in a clear glass, Bolstridge believes customers enjoy it just as much that way.

Tampa's Ocean Prime offers a different twist on the drink, using rum instead of vodka. They call it a Caribbean Mule.

"Because we started with a different version we didn't ever use the copper mugs," said Jo Truett, who works at the restaurant. "I have friends in the business and they tell me they are definitely having a hard time keeping them in the building."

The Sheraton Sand Key serves Moscow Mules in glass as well. Bartender George Pietrowski said it's a very popular drink, but once in a while customers cancel their order when they learn it won't arrive in a frosty copper mug.

Establishments look at the same problem and its solutions differently. Perry at Datz said she considered asking for driver's licenses but thought it seemed rude to imply somebody might steal simply because they ordered a drink. Gross said his staff apologize to customers for having to take a deposit on the mugs and they seem to understand.

"It's not just a problem with Moscow Mules, people steal anything, even Splenda," Gross said, adding that he probably loses 25 sets of silverware over the course of a year.

Contact Katherine Snow Smith at kssmith@tampabay.com. Follow @snowsmith.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn spends time with new homeowner LaToya Reedy and her son, AnTrez, at 918 43rd St. S. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer running back partnered with Habitat for Humanity and others to give a hardworking nursing assistant and her son the home of their dreams.
  2. Duke Energy Co. workers are competing in a line worker competition in Kansas this week. | [Courtesy of Duke Energy Florida] Duke Energy Florida
    Four Duke Energy Florida competitors are from Tampa Bay, as well as two coaches.
  3. An 18 month-old girl died after being left in a car Monday. No charges are expected, police say. WFTS  |  Courtesy of
    No charges are expected after 18 month-old girl was left in a Jeep as her father took a truck to work, police say.
  4. University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle pieces together a skull that might have been Amelia Earhart's. SANDRA C. ROA  |  University of South Florida
    DNA from a skull found in 1940 could prove whether the famous aviator has been found.
  5. Alexandra Toigo, 32 and Sabrina Pourghassem, 23, pose for a photo at Hofbrauhaus St. Petersburg holding their signature beer mugs during Oktoberfest 2018. "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The beer hall’s property owners filed a lawsuit saying the restaurant missed its rent starting in August.
  6. Port Tampa Bay on Tuesday agreed to sell a half-acre it owns near the Florida Aquarium for $4.7 million to Streams Capital of Tampa, which is looking at building a 33-story condominium and hotel tower. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
    The buyer, Streams Capital of Tampa, is looking at building a 33-story tower with a hotel, condominiums and retail.
  7. Nearly a year after it was left abandoned and half-sunk off the Tampa side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, a salvage crew finally raised and towed the Moonraker II to the Courtney Campbell boat ramp. It is slated to be crushed. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The boat was an eyesore to those who live off Tampa Bay. Then it became a political statement. Now it’s been towed and will soon be crushed.
  8. Republican Sen. Joe Gruters said Florida consumers are required to pay the sales tax, but rarely do so if online sellers don't collect it.
    The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday.
  9. Stephanie Vold, a medical assistant and intake specialist for OnMed, holds the door while Austin White, president and CEO of the company, talks with a nurse practitioner during a demonstration of their new telehealth system at Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday. The hospital is the first to deploy the OnMed station and plans to install them at other locations. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The closet-size “office” with a life-size screen is another example of the changing face of medicine.
  10. A Hernando County Sheriff's deputy talks to students in the cafeteria of Brooksville Elementary School in 2018. Earlier this month, the school district put forward a proposal to move away from a contract with the Sheriff and establish its own police force. On Tuesday, it announced it would drop that idea.
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke out this week against the proposal.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement