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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Whiskey Robber

Here’s a great story in Salon about the infamous Whiskey Robber, Attila Ambrus.

Originally from Romania, he escaped to Hungary right before the collapse of the Soviet empire on the underside of a freight train. To survive he tried just about anything from smuggling animal pelts to goalkeeping for the national hockey team.

It was a time of transition, when the country felt the first pangs of rebirth after decades of communist oppression. Attila explains how the power dynamics merely shifted, and it continued to be as he always remembered it: corrupt. Everyone had their little "side" job to get by. He soon discovered that his charisma and penchant for small time crookery could land him bigtime money.

In a low moment he went to a flea market and bought a wig and a toy gun and robbed a post office for a small sum. The incredible ease of it was what hooked him to the thrill of the heist. This was 1993, the beginning of his 6 year career as the "Whiskey Robber".

Always the gentleman, he even brought flowers to the female tellers before walking out with bundles of cash. The cops on his case were incredibly inept - crashing into each other, getting directions wrong and passing right by him, one was even known as "the dance instructor" for his side job as a ballet instructor.

The comic cat and mouse game made Attila a living legend, and a folk hero in Hungary. He was finally apprehended in 1999, and he shortly thereafter escaped from a maximum security prison by lowering himself to freedom on a cord of bedsheets and telephone cable. He resumed his heisting and loving before he was caught living in the middle of the city three months later.

Amazingly, he never once hurt anyone in any of his escapades.

Apparently Hollywood already has the rights to his life story, and Johnny Depp has expressed interest in playing Atilila. Some have said Colin Farrell resembles him, but I hope they don’t let that dweeb do it.


The moniker Whiskey Robber was given to him because before his heists witnesses often reported seeing him in a bar across the street from whatever bank he was going to rob, taking shots of Johnnie Walker Red Label – his favorite.

One of the greatest honors has been bestowed upon him: his own cocktail. Here’s the recipe (from author Julian Rubinstein’s website):

The Whiskey Robber

One 1/2 ounces Johnnie Walker Red

One ounce of sour mix

3 dashes of bitters

Dry ginger ale

Orange slice

Crush orange into bottom of ice-filled Old-Fashioned glass. Then, in an ice-filled shaker, add Johnnie Walker Red, sour mix and bitters. Shake well, strain into ice-filled glass, spritz with dry ginger ale.

Sounds pretty good.