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Bar owners are swapping out Moscow Mules for Kyiv Mules

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine continues, American bar and restaurant owners are hoping a small word change will help show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. In a move reminiscent of the “freedom fries” fad of the early aughts, they’re taking Moscow Mules off the menu and replacing them with Kyiv Mules.

Small American businesses, such as independent bar or restaurant owners, may not have any direct business ties to Russia, but many feel strongly about the violent attack on Ukrainian cities and citizens. Replacing “Moscow” with “Kyiv” in their vodka-ginger-lime cocktails is one way to show support for Ukraine.

Bond Bar, in San Francisco, has renamed its Moscow Mule the Kyiv Mule. “It’s just a little token of acknowledgment to the Ukrainian people,” said owner Andrea Minoo. “We’re just trying to raise awareness, and to let people know, we’re in support [of Ukraine].” She wants Ukrainians to know that “we see what’s happening, we wish we could do more.”

Bond Bar doesn’t serve Russian vodka, Minoo noted, so it’s not replacing any ingredients in its Kyiv Mule.

Madrone Art Bar, also in San Francisco, did serve Russian vodka until this past weekend, when owner Michael Krouse decided to take it off the menu.

First, he had to figure out which of the roughly 10 vodkas he carries were actually Russian. Many top-selling vodka brands that trace their origins to Russia are now distilled in multiple countries, including the United States. Stoli Vodka, for example, is actually made in Latvia, and the company’s headquarters are in Luxembourg.

After some research, Krouse removed Russian Standard, one of the few vodka brands that actually is Russian-made, from his bar. Then he decided to rename Madrone’s Moscow Mule the Kyiv Mule and looked for a Ukrainian vodka to make it with. The bar unveiled the reconstituted cocktail on Instagram this week.

“Introducing the ‘Kyiv Mule’ made with Prime Ukrainian vodka!,'” a Wednesday post reads, adding that “$2 of each Kyiv Mule sale will be donated to the Ukraine Crisis Fund.” The Kyiv Mule costs $12.

Krouse said he was feeling sad and helpless about the situation in Ukraine when he decided to make those moves. Those changes were “at least something that we could do,” he said.

Making a gesture

Some bars are going beyond ditching “Moscow” for “Kyiv.”

Em Chamas Brazilian Grill in Kansas City, Missouri, said in a Facebook post last week that its Moscow Mule will be replaced by a “Snake Island Mule,” in “support of the Ukrainian resistance and in honor of the brave soldiers of Snake Island.”

Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, sits about 30 miles off the southern tip of the Ukrainian mainland in the northwestern Black Sea. Last week, a handful of Ukrainian fighters on the island stood up to Russian warships. They were feared dead, but the Ukrainian Navy released a statement Monday saying the troops were “alive and well” after being forced to surrender “due to the lack of ammunition.”

Back in Kansas City, the Em Chamas post also urged customers against “directing animosity towards local restaurants or businesses that are Russian-themed and/or are owned/operated by those of Russian [descent].” The eatery, which charges about $11 for cocktails, plans to donate profits from the Snake Island Mule to a Ukrainian charity, according to the Facebook post.

Ronnie Heckman, owner of Caddies on Cordell, a bar and grill in Bethesda, Maryland, has not only swapped out Moscow Mules for Kyiv Mules, he’s gone so far to replace Black Russians and White Russians with Black Ukrainians (vodka and Kahlua on the rocks) and White Ukrainians (made with vodka, Kahlua and cream).

“It’s a gesture,” he said. Caddies is also donating part of the revenue from those drinks to Ukrainian aid, he said.

Heckman hopes that if enough restaurant and bar owners take references to Russia off their menus, they can send a message to Russian leadership. The attack on Ukraine “makes no sense,” he said. “It’s wrong.”

— CNN’s Jordan Valinsky, Brad Lendon, Tim Lister and Josh Pennington contributed to this report.

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