Often I get requests from friends for things to keep an eye out for. These things are often too vague to pinpoint for another person—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if I ever see round tables—others are too specific to hope to ever find. This is what I thought when my boss asked me to be on the lookout for solid copper mugs. Absurd. Or so I thought until I ran across these at a flea market.
Six 1950s solid copper mugs, branded Cavalier by National Silver. Seriously, what are the odds of ever running across something like this at a flea market? For $10 no less. Of course they didn’t start out all shiny and gorgeous—that took some elbow grease on my part.
An original patina would have been nice, but these were a little too beat up and irregularly tarnished to really appreciate. So, out came the rags and polish. Copper is soft and easy to shine up, but first you have to get to the copper. These mugs came with a clear protective lacquer that had to be removed before polishing. Simply rubbing them with paper towels soaked in acetone works well. This must be done outside and with chemical resistant gloves.
After the lacquer is removed, I like to use a two step process for polishing copper. First I use Revere copper cookware cleaner to brighten the metal. This is simply applied with a wet sponge and rinsed off. For the second step I use Weiman metal polish to give the metal a deep, reflective shine. I use an old sock for applying the polish and then use a piece of t-shirt material to give a final, scratch free shine.
You may be wondering why anyone would have such a specific request. My boss dabbles in mixology and one of his favorite drinks is the Moscow Mule, which is traditionally served in copper mugs. The drink was created in the 1940s at LA’s Cock ‘n’ Bull Tavern as a means to popularize vodka in the U.S. and move a surplus of ginger beer. Most accounts say the use of copper mugs was a marketing ploy to give the drink mystique and tempt customers into ordering it—but fans will tell you the Moscow Mule simply isn’t the same without a copper cup. Try it for yourself with this recipe from the Cock ‘n’ Bull (via Bon Appétit):
Fill chilled copper mug (or tall glass) with ice. Add 1/4 cup vodka, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, then 1/2 cup chilled ginger beer; stir to mix. Garnish with lime wedge. Enjoy!