A Recipe for Theft

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.


  • Alex1618 posted 1 year ago

    The bar that I manage has had all types of things go missing: crystal old fashioned glasses, small stools (those 2ft high things), liquor bottles on display (they must not realize they are empty) at New year somebody even stole a magnum bottle of Armand de Brignac that was on the menu for 700$!

    I have only ever stolen a menu from the most upscale bar in town (thick folded paper) to compare our prices and drink variety.

  • Jim posted 2 years ago

    Forty years ago in college there was a windstorm that blew down a 300 lb barsign outside our local watering hole. My frat brothers and I got organized (and drunk) and "liberated it" to the frat house.

  • Mik posted 2 years ago

    Well the problem would be solved if they wouldnt charge so much for the drink itself and the glass! why not charge a little more just like a dollar more for the glass?

  • Michael posted 2 years ago

    I've been known to borrow an ashtray or two...but as mentioned above...thats no longer a viable souvenir. I used to get cork coasters. My best find was a wonderful wine menu from a national chain restaurant. I didn't steal it...I ask if I could have it (I would have paid for it). The waitress said if it could fit in my wife's purse, she wouldn't see it fall in there...it fit.

  • Kenny posted 2 years ago

    I usually walk out with a couple of wallets or credit cards.
    Easy pickens for a guy like me....you people get so trashed it's childsplay.

  • Muztang999 posted 2 years ago

    I'm a bartender ... I will tell you that ANYTHING and EVERYTHING grows legs and leaves the bar, perhaps going to a better home LOL. Doesn't matter if it's a plain old beer glass or the craft glasses like Stella, Blue Moon, Sam, etc. Cool neon signs, when small enough have been known to "disappear" as well. What else .... tap handles, flatware, beer buckets, posters, coasters, I could go on but I've given away too many ideas already LOL

  • Brian posted 2 years ago

    1986. I was in Cannes while in the Navy. A pub slightly off the beaten path served Stella Artois in the neatest .5 liter embossed glasses I'd ever seen. You were allowed to remove them from the premises to drink out front on the sidewalk and street. As they were emptied, I collected. I shipped them home wrapped in T-shirts. Upon my return to the States, I asked to see my trophies. While they had all survived their voyage, they did not all survive my Mom putting them in the dishwasher. I still have two.

  • Karl Schappell posted 2 years ago

    The Merchant Hotel Bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland has the best cocktail menu I've ever seen and they sell them! I think they realize that they will go missing so it's easier and more profitable to do it this way. As a bartender I know that branded glasses are always going to walk at some point. Most popular are Schneider Weizen glasses and Stella Artois chalis. Moscow mule copper are impossible to keep in stock.

  • bryan landaburu posted 2 years ago

    I feel like if youre a cool person and you enjoy the bar, that you should always ask before taking something. I'll share a couple of my experiences...

    I have about 10 single-sheet paper menu's from Noble Experiment that i've had the luxury of collecting over many years of visiting the bar. I didn't steal any of them. They are not for taking but I visit enough that when I asked Anthony or Nathan if they'd let me have one, they approve. I know they can't and don't do this for everyone, but a respectful request usually meets a positive response. For me, i love them, and they are part of a display on my home bar.

    Similarly, i just visited The Dead Rabbit in NYC and was amazed by their beautiful menu. I asked our waitress if they had them for sale. They actually did, for $50. I paid for the book. It's spendy, but i respect the establishment, and all the creativity that went into it so for me i purchased the souvenir.

    One note for bar owners...if people love the experience they have in your establishment, some will want to remember it. Developing a cool keepsake, or a copy of the menu they can purchase solves some of these crimes, and leaves a nice lasting impression on the customer. Of course scalawags will always be scalawags...never gonna stop that.

  • No' Smoky posted 2 years ago

    Since there are no ashtrays to steal anymore, I stopped going to bars. Stopped smoking, too.

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