Admit it: At some point in your life, you’ve wanted to walk out of a bar with a souvenir, whether it’s the vintage crystal coupe your Manhattan came in, a cool coaster or even a piece of furniture.
Now, we know you’d never steal, but all the time, we hear from bartenders about how things have a way of disappearing. Intrigued, we asked a few to tell us what’s taken most often.
Top of the list? Menus. While some joints don’t mind if you swipe a photocopied drinks page, fancier menus are a different story. Trick Dog in San Francisco has one of the coolest menus we’ve ever seen: It looks like a paint-color sample deck. Co-owner Scott Baird says they’ve lost more than a hundred in the six months they’ve been in business and have had to reprint four times!
Menu theft is more than just an annoyance. Liquor.com advisory board member Jim Meehan says the custom-made, leather-bound volumes at his award-winning modern speakeasy PDT in New York are his most frequently stolen item; three or four a month go missing. “At $60 apiece, it hurts!” Meehan says.
Another popular target are the copper mugs traditionally used to serve Moscow Mules. At The Bitter Bar in Boulder, Colo., head bartender Justin Lavenue says one or two mugs disappear each week. “It is a nuisance that we have tried to curb through taking IDs until the mug is returned,” he says. “However, it is almost impossible to keep up with that practice when the bar is full and busy. So, Bitter Bar kind of takes a hit when one is stolen, unfortunately.”
Handling these situations can be tough for mixologists. They don’t want to lose a regular over a glass, but then again, they don’t want to lose the glass, either. “I overheard a lady the other night saying that she usually takes a Mule mug when she’s in my bar,” says New York bartender Naren Young. “I served all her drinks in regular glasses and then asked her to leave.” But Young has seen a variety of items find their way out of his establishment Saxon & Parole: “People steal our leather coasters, steel straws and Julep cups all the time,” he says.
And sometimes, dishonest patrons aim even higher. “About a year ago, somebody stole a stuffed black bear head that we had hanging above the hostess stand at the front door,” Lavenue says. “We tried to recover it by putting up a ‘missing’ sign with a picture of it, but no one came forward with any valuable information.”
If you’re responsible, please return it. The Bitter Bar wants its bear head back.
Ever stolen something from a watering hole? Leave a comment to ‘fess up about what “souvenirs” you’ve taken.