Although she was born in Belgrade, Serbia, Mira Stamenic is known lovingly to her friends as “Mother Russia.” “It’s because I take such good care of my friends,” she said with a thick Russian, er, Serbian accent. It’s actually not thick at all, but rather sexy, reminding me a little of Kristen Johnston’s “Ivana Humpalot” from “Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me,” just a bit more subdued. Yes, I know Ivana Humpalot is Russian, too, but as just another dumb American, I haven’t mastered all the regional dialects; I just know that I like them all. “I’m their mother,” she continued. “I’ll tell them ‘no shots!’ or ‘you have to take a shot!’ or ‘it’s time for you to go home.’”
Mira graduated from Singidunum University in Belgrade, a private college, with a degree in tourism and hospitality, a perfect prerequisite for living a life here in the Southernmost City. At 21, she came to Key West on vacation, and decided to stay for a few months, not to work, but just to play. But the Key West bug bit her, and within the first month, she got a job at 801 Bourbon Bar. “I’ve worked at all the cool places,” she admitted.
Mira bartended at 801 almost four years, at Rick’s up in the Loft Bar for a little less than a year, Bobby’s Monkey Bar for a while, Cowboy Bill’s for two years, then she moved over to Cowboy Bill’s bar Reloaded on Greene Street. “When Rumor Lounge bought it, I got stolen,” she said. “I knew the new owners coming in, Jess and John. When Reloaded became Rumor Lounge, I just stayed there.” Sadly, Rumor Lounge closed its doors last July and has since become Tiki House that is quickly becoming a popular place for well-crafted tiki cocktails and first class live entertainment, including Mira herself who has continued to stay on as not only a bartender but also as a DJ one night a week.
Located at 430 Greene St., Tiki House is a small basement like space nestled between Duval Street and Capt. Tony’s, with a wide-open entrance, limited high top seating, and a long, friendly bar decorated tastefully with authentic vintage memorabilia. It opens at 10am every day of the week and the doors don’t generally shut until 4 a.m.
Tiki House doesn’t serve food, but it does offer drink specials including a daily 2-4-1 happy hour on its draft beers, well drinks and Zombie cocktail made with “rum, more rum, fresh lime, fresh grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup and house-made falernum” every day from 4-6 p.m. and $6 mojitos before 10 p.m. On Tuesdays they offer $3 off select cocktails by the glass and $5 off select cocktails by the bowls. A second happy hour takes place on Wednesdays from 10 p.m. until close and on Thursdays in honor of Mira DJing, $5 Three Olive vodka bombs and drinks are served as part of a ladies night promotion.
Mother Russia started DJing three years ago. Along with Tiki House she’s also been DJing at Dante’s Pool Bar, at Club A and at Side Bar.
When she’s not working, Mira likes to be outside on a boat or at the beach. “I’m a movie buff. I love the movies. I usually wait until they come to the Tropic,” she said. “I volunteered for the Tropic’s annual Oscar Party, for free movie tickets and drinks.”
Her friends might not know, but Mira played competitive volleyball in Serbia for seven years. “I stopped my second year in college. I knew I wasn’t going to go pro. I was the shortest girl on the team.”
Admittedly, she says she is obsessed with tennis, sometimes playing just for fun. “Last September I went to the U.S. Open in New York. It was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”
In September of 2012, while training for the Sprint Triathlon, Mira suffered a debilitating accident. “I hadn’t had a drink in over a month,” she said. “I had worked late and was coming down College Road and tried to stop at a yellow light when my scooter wiped out.” Mira suffered two skull fractures and had two plates and screws put in her right elbow. “You come back from something like that a different person. You look at everything differently. It straightens your priorities out.”
Mira spent five days in a Miami hospital. “I was dumb. I had no insurance. Money came in cards from friends of friends, with notes saying ‘praying for you. Here’s $50.’ Everybody cried. People took turns staying with me. Five days in the hospital and I didn’t sleep alone one night. My friends in Key West are my second family.”
Mira kept a positive attitude. “The doctor said I recovered fast,” she said. “I started back to work in November, right after Fantasy Fest.”
Mira says she’d like to travel more in the future and work more on her DJ skills. “I like to try new food. New places to eat. I love food and wine. If that could be my job for the rest of my life, sign me up.”
And on that note, I’ll end with my favorite Ivana Humpalot quote. Ivana: “Just make love to me. Now, Austin Powervich! Hurry!” (Austin rips his shirt open). “Oh, you are hairy! Like animal!” Austin: “Grr, baby! Very grr!” ¦