Cavalier Copper Mugs

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.

The original patina didn't exactly scream "drink up!"

The original patina didn’t exactly scream “drink up!”

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.

Lacquer RemovalAfter 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.


Never throw out old socks and t-shirts

Step 1, left, brightens copper. Step 2, right, shines it up

Step 1, left, brightens copper; Step 2, right, shines it up

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):

Moscow Mule
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!

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  1. Justen
    Posted November 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    What kind of lacquer can can you put on copper that won’t dissolve with alcohol? Or are you leaving them unlacquered? Mine are unlacquered and they are a nightmare keeping clean. They tarnish so fast.
    Thanks for any suggestions!

    • Austin
      Posted December 23, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Hi Justen, sorry for the super delayed response! I did not clear coat the mugs from the post with anything. With hand washing and immediate drying, they do ok, but they will not stay bright and they will form dark spots over time. I did a little research and I only found one product that is available to consumers that is a food-safe clear coat for copper. It’s called ProtectaClear, check out the link below. I don’t have any experience with the product, so I’d call the manufacturer with questions to be sure it will work for you. One thing to consider is that no clear lacquer will be permanent. With normal use chips, scratches and fine checks will occur that eventually cause the copper to tarnish under the clear coat. Once this happens, the only way to fully polish the copper will be to entirely remove the clear coat. But if you only have to do this process once every 10 years, it might be worth it. If you find that this works, please let us know!

  2. Nancy Kellick
    Posted February 13, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for having this information on how to clean these mugs. My mom recently passed and I got 4 of these mugs (among other things) – I always loved them! Can’t wait to get them looking their best.

  3. Paul Smith
    Posted June 2, 2016 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this information on how to clean copper mugs. I also have 4 of these mugs (among other things) – I always loved them! Can’t wait to get them looking their best.

  4. Amanda mounts
    Posted January 30, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Wondering if u know how much they r worth i have a set of 8 im wanting to sell;

  5. Posted February 27, 2019 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    A 100% solid copper Moscow mule mugs barrel shape, comes without any nickel, stainless steel, or food lacquer lining! Only the outside of the mug is lacquer finished so the copper finish won’t tarnish.

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