Moscow Mule Mugs - Are Copper Mugs Really Better?

Moscow Mule Mugs – Are Copper Mugs Really Better?

UPDATED: Sep 23, 2021

A truly great cocktail is about more than alcohol swished together with your favorite mixer. Cocktails should heighten the senses with exquisite flavors, aromas, and presentation. The act of drinking, in and of itself, is a practice of camaraderie, bringing people together to laugh, share stories, and have fun. So any cocktail worth sipping should have its own personality and story. The legend of the Moscow Mule, a standout among vodka drinks made with fizzy ginger beer, tangy lime juice, and served in stunning copper mugs, fits on the list of classic American cocktails like few others. But why does a Moscow Mule have to be in a copper mug?

Engraved Moscow Mule Mug

Although the finely tuned ingredients of the Moscow Mule recipe are certainly appealing, the true signature of this mixed drink is the copper mug. Since Moscow Mules first appeared in the 1940s, copper mugs have been essential for proper presentation. But is copper really better? For some traditionalists, even asking the question, “Why is a Moscow Mule served in a copper mug?” is blasphemous, since decades of ceremony insist that they be used. Yet, for the discerning drinker, it’s important to know the facts. So we must look beyond the ginger beer and vodka to investigate the true benefits of copper Moscow Mule mugs.


Solid Copper Mule Mug

The most scientific benefit of using copper moscow mule mugs is temperature. For centuries, the best drinkers have known that chilled drinks in copper mugs offer an extra-cool sensation, due to the metal quickly taking on the icy temperature of the cocktail. The rim of the mug becomes chilly almost instantly, offering a frozen sensation on your lips. The cold metal is highly effective at insulating the cold temperature of any liquid, especially good for summertime drinking, and deflecting heat from the sun. The handle of the mug helps maintain drink temperature, as well, keeping the near 100 degree body heat of your hand away from the walls of the mug, and your Moscow Mule safely chilled inside.

Taste Benefits of Copper Mugs

Unique Moscow Mule Kick Copper Mugs

The taste benefits are a bit more subjective, and will obviously vary, depending on the recipe you use. There are, however, clear indications that using copper mugs for Moscow Mules enhance the individual flavors of the ginger beer, vodka, and lime. Some experts say that when vodka touches the walls of the mug, the copper begins to oxidize, slightly boosting the aroma, and enhancing the taste of the vodka.

Copper Cup for Cocktails

Cold copper also has a tendency to increase the amount of bubbles in the carbonated ginger beer, bringing maximum fizziness to the Moscow Mule, when compared to being served in a plastic or glass container. The lime juice is also brought to life by the extra-cold copper, heightening the tangy citrus notes and reducing the acidity to better compliment the spicy ginger beer. When these three flavors reach their maximum potential, they work together to prove that the Moscow Mule deserves its home among classic American cocktails.

The Experience

Hammered Moscow Mule Copper Mugs Set of 4

If Moscow Mule mugs with handles aren’t your style, go with these sleek copper handle-less ones. These copper mugs without handles can be easier to hold, but the thickness of the copper will ensure that warmth from your hands doesn’t interfere with your ice cold Moscow Mule. Your delicious cocktail will taste just as delicious, even without the classic handle!

Copper Mug Set for Moscow Mules

Re-tracing the history of the Moscow Mule, this ginger beer and vodka combination started at bars in Manhattan and Hollywood in 1941. In order to give the drink a distinctive look, the originators ordered specially made copper Moscow Mule mugs, and took pictures of patrons drinking them with Polaroid cameras, a cutting edge invention of the day. The photographs began to circulate, and the popularity of drinking a zesty Moscow Mule from a sleek, shiny copper mug found its place in American cocktail culture. Hugely popular in the mid 20th century, recent trends have solidified the timeless nature of this mixed drink. This is why Moscow Mules are served in copper cups in homes and bars across America.

Are Copper Mugs Really Better?

Yes. Copper mugs are hands down the best choice for mixing up the best Moscow Mule recipe. On top of that, classic Moscow Mule mugs are undoubtedly the best way to enjoy the classic beverage. After all, what other cocktail has its own copper mug, or any other types of glasses, almost solely devoted to it? As amazing as your Mule will taste coming from the classic cup, it’ll be even more enjoyable when shared with a friend or loved one, a precious gift that this set of two mugs will give you.

Set of Two Moscow Mule Mugs


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55 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I have a few copper mugs that are unlined, copper on the inside. i’ve notice over time, that i can pick up the taste of copper especially towards the last sip or two. Is this of concern? Do you sell a food safe product to clean the inside of the copper mugs? Thanks

    • Having a slightly metallic taste can happen, especially with un-coated, 100% copper mugs. There’s no reason for concern, you’re likely tasting the metal more as the drink becomes diluted. We do sell a product called “Bar Keepers Friend” that is a food safe cleaner, although it can only be used on un-coated drinkware.

      • Drew Cummings says:

        Barkeepers Friend is not food safe. Just so you’re aware. It contains an ingredient that is not good for your internal organs. Oxalate or something of the like. I can’t remember right now, but please rinse well for your own good…

        • Bar Keeper’s Friend does contain an active ingredient called oxalic acid. It’s an organic compound useful for cleaning, and even found in some foods. Although it should never be consumed in concentrated amounts, thoroughly rinsing your copper mugs after cleaning keeps them looking great and perfectly safe to drink from.

  2. hansonr55 says:

    Copper is not an insulator. In fact, it’s such a good conductor that we wire our houses with it… (thermal conductivity in metals approximately tracks electrical conductivity) Glass is a much better thermal insulator, which is why we have fiberglass insulation.

    • topo says:

      Was just about to type this. Don’t know how he made it through the logic of it immediately becoming cold yet somehow insulating

      • My thinking is that, although the metal conducts the temperature almost immediately, the feeling of the cold cup, or as I phrased it the “sensation,” gives the drinker an enhanced ultra-cool experience. For example, when I drink a Moscow Mule, the cold metal on my lips has a crisp feeling that’s not achieved through glass or plastic. In addition, the cold metal mug does help maintain the temperature better than, for example, a paper or disposable plastic cup, due to the fact that the copper will match the temperature of the contents, and keep body heat away when the handle is used.

      • I might chime in here with my opinion as well. The mug gets colder than a regular glass does. Not sure on the exact science, just speaking from a lot of experience. Glasses tend to warm to room temperature, whereas the copper mug tends to get colder once the ice and liquid is added. You can see this yourself if you take a frosted glass from the freezer and add a drink to it. Immediately the glass loses the frost and starts warming. In contrast your copper mug probably starts at room temperature or slightly chilled and then gets much colder when the cocktail and ice are added. The copper mug stays exactly that cold until the ice melts or you finish it. Typically my drinks stay colder longer in the copper mug as well. Less transfer of heat between your hand and the glass since you are using the handle of the copper mug is likely part of this, the larger surface area of a glass may also explain part of it. I’m not a PhD but I think the third reason might be the transfer of cold from the copper mug to your mouth happens quicker than a mug made of glass, essentially tricking your brain into thinking it’s colder.

        Finally we get to the taste, if you are skeptical I think one trip to an upscale bar that uses copper mugs will change your mind. Not only is the cocktail colder (explained above) it also has a more spicy and refreshing flavor. Once again based on experience rather than science, but I think if you take me up on this and go visit your local bar you will definitely notice the difference.

        • RBIggs123245 says:

          Sure, the copper gets cold. But where does that cold come from? The cold in the drink is being transfered to the mug, because copper is such a great conductor. This makes for a refreshing drinking experience, for the reasons stated above. But this is exactly the opposite of insulation. The copper is transferring the cold of the drink to the air outside the mug, and vice versa. The handle is crucially necessary for this reason.

          • ChemEPhD says:

            Technically, cold isn’t something that can be transferred, it is just a lack of heat, which is something that can be transferred. The mug gets cold because the heat is being transferred to the drink. Your point is correct, I just had to chime in.

    • Matt says:

      Glass is not a thermal insulator at all, if has an r value of 1-12. Fiberglass is good insulator because its got lots of air trapped inside.

    • So why not use oak wood mugs?

      • You definitely could. As mentioned in the article, tradition is a big part of the equation with Moscow Mule mugs, but there’s nothing wrong with starting your own traditions!

  3. i have seen the mugs you used for these photos and they are nickle lined mugs. does nickle offer a similar effect?

    • The nickel lining is Moscow Mule mugs is very thin, more like a coating on the surface of the copper construction. It really does not have a significant impact on the temperature of the drink. It looks great, though!

    • Absolutely, when you drink the mug your mug touches the outside more than the inside (think how lipstick on a glass is always on the outside). Your flavor should not change, nor the temperature. The flavor added from the thin nickel lining is pretty much the same as the copper. I have both in my home and guests cannot tell a difference between the lined and pure copper. I will tell you the pure copper patina so they need cleaned with something like bar keepers friend (sold at the hardware store) if you want to keep them shiny. The nickle lined ones do not, nickel does not patina. That being said the full cooper ones are more traditional, so there are subtle pluses and minuses to both. HWB has full cooper and nickel lined whichever you prefer, additionally they also have a stainless steel lined one. Purists (myself included) would say you will not get the same taste effect from the stainless, but it looks sharp and is cheaper if you are on a budget.

  4. Vanessa says:

    “The cold metal is highly effective at insulating the cold temperature of any liquid, especially good for summertime drinking, and deflecting heat from the sun.”

    I hope you realize this isn’t how the physics of heat transfer work…anything that takes on the temperature of what’s inside, isn’t insulating but transferring. Copper actually makes the drink warmer faster because of it’s excellent heat transferring qualities. This is why a great smoker feels cool to the touch even if it’s 500 degrees, or why a great cooler doesn’t feel cold even on a hot day….because they are insulating not transferring.
    Great post aside from that though.

  5. erik says:

    what about the double walled stainless stell mugs how would they affect the drink?

    • The metal would offer the same temperature and and aesthetic benefits, for sure. Many double walled mugs offer an additional layer of insulation, so presumably the double wall copper would keep the drink cold a bit longer.

  6. JPBrewer says:

    I’m no physicist, but I’m guessing a room-temperature, copper mug filled with an ice cold drink almost immediately transfers its heat to the drink, but since it is very thin metal, it doesn’t have much heat to give. From that point on, it would offer very little insulation from the heat of the room. A room-temperature pint glass filled with an ice cold drink would transfer its heat to the drink as well, probably more slowly, and I would think it would be a great deal more heat than the cup would contain, simply because the pint glass has a lot more mass than the cup (and they’re both at room temperature). After its room-temperature heat transfers to the drink, the glass would offer more insulation from the room’s heat than the cup. So, a metal cup should raise the drink’s temperature far less during the time you are likely to be drinking it in a normal, room-temperature environment, while a glass would probably be able to keep the drink cooler, longer in a hot environment.

    Aside from raising the initial temperature of the drink itself less, because the metal conducts heat so much better than the glass, the metal touching your lips will feel much colder than the glass, because your lip-heat is zipping out toward the coldness of the drink much faster. IOW, the metal cup will drop the temperature of your lips more quickly than the glass will, because it is a terrible insulator. So, it feels colder.

    This article (from, if you can believe there is such a thing) suggests the copper mug being used for the Moscow Mule was a completely marketing-driven contrivance, and that it has nothing to do with flavor or any copper-specific quality. They just had a lot of copper mugs to sell.

    • Very good points. You’ll notice in the Temperature section, I discuss the “sensation” of coolness created by the metal, which is very true. Every time I drink a from a copper mug, the chill created by the copper edge gives me that signature zing. And there’s no denying that the original marketing campaign is why they even exist today. All reasons why the drinking experience is the best reason to use a copper mug.

  7. Phil says:

    I am an engineer with extensive experience in heat transfer dynamics. The copper mug is pretty much all marketing. The fact is that copper is an excellent conductor of heat compared with nonmetals, such as glass, paper, styrofoam, etc. When you put the cold drink in the copper cup, the copper immediately achieves the temperature of the drink for all practical purposes. Heat transfer begins from the air, to the outside metal surface, to the inside metal surface, and finally to the drink. Glass, paper and styrofoam would impede this heat transfer process significantly compared with a metal such as copper. The outside of the copper mug would be much lower temperature than that with glass, paper, styrofoam and since heat transfer is proportional to the temperature gradient, a larger temperature difference between the outside air and the metal suface means higher heat transfer.

    Double walled containers usually have an air gap between them, and air is a pretty good insulator compared with usual drinking glass materials. Example, the newer insulated plastic drinking glasses that don’t sweat.

    The only benefit I see to the copper mug is that you will feel the same cold temperature on your lower lip as your upper lip, which would not happen with a styrofoam cup, for example. I am not a chemical engineer, so I can’t comment on oxidation affecting the taste of the drink.

    That said, I had one this weekend (actually 2) and I think the experience is better than simply drinking out of a margarita glass. All personal preference. Perhaps they were used long ago because they held up better to drunk bar patrons who might have broken all the glasses…

  8. mkae flagg says:

    I was wondering if you could explain why some Moscow mule mugs have copper handles and others have brass. Ours have copper handles which get very cold which can make it uncomfortable to hold the mug. Wondering if we should have purchased ones with brass handles instead or is there an advantage to have copper over brass? Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Some mugs are made with brass handles for purely aesthetic reasons. The brass handles will still get cold, but it will usually take a longer, depending on the temperature outside, hold long you hold the handle, etc. Brass has about a third of the electrical conductivity of copper, but I’m not certain if the same math applies to the transfer of temperature.

  9. Joe says:

    I have copper mugs that have lead handles made in India—a gift, the instructions say that the handles are made of lead and to wash after using. It was a surprise to me!!! Yeah I know, but are the handles of some made of lead to prevent the cold from coming to the handles which might be uncomfortable to some? I was curious to what the Moscow mule was all about, so I made a couple to let my customers know that this is a good drink or not. My concern is the lead, why even sale the mug if it has health concerns. I avoid using the handles by holding the mug, still retains the cold. Which mug are lead free and safe to use??? I believe that I will put these aside as decorations. Any help/advise in advance is greatly appreciated!!!! Thanks!!!!

    • None of the Moscow Mule mugs on our website contain lead, and I’ve actually never seen any that do! I’ve definitely seen mugs that incorporate brass and stainless steel, which are both safe.

  10. Tim says:

    I don’t see that it’s been asked yet…if so I apologize. Can you recommend a quality brand of copper mug. I’m hesitant to buy anything from China, or India after all of the recent negative publicity over quality controls from that area of the world. I don’t want to spend good money for something that’s going to fall apart, or worse yet, poison me.

    • Most copper mugs are made in India, some in China, and very few in the United States. I can vouch for the ones on our website, however. All have been tested and meet food safety standards.

  11. Wan says:

    “Some experts say that when vodka touches the walls of the mug, the copper begins to oxidize, slightly boosting the aroma, and enhancing the taste of the vodka.”

    So you’re telling me that my drinks will taste better if they are made with rust? Yeah, no thanks.

  12. I was thinking of buying some copper wine cups. Are copper cups good with wine?

  13. Rick Benson says:

    Great post. I had two Moscow Mules last night before and after dinner with my wife and friends, with all the debate about if the mugs make the drinks colder or warm faster is rather a moot point to all the people I hang out with as we don’t sip them like a fine single malt, we vigorously drink them relishing the cold drink and the feel of the cold cup.
    to me the only benefits to the copper mug is the cold for your senses and the traditional looks.

  14. Lauren says:

    Very informative post & comment section. Thank you! Just one thing, though… the possessive of “it” has no apostrophe. It should be “its.” Sorry, it was bothering me. Feel free to delete this comment since it is not really relevant to the post context. =)

    • Rick T. says:

      Lauren, I’m glad you caught this incorrect use of an apostrophe and took the time to make mention of it. Based on that, I suspect you’d love a Facebook group called the Apostrophe Protection Society. Members post pics of their favorite and/or most loathsome apostrophe fails. Always good for some laughs!

  15. Christine says:

    Hi Rodney!
    Every time I see Copper Mugs whilst shopping I wonder, “Why do I need these?!”
    Thank You for the great article and thanks to all who commented…I learned a lot and now feel confident to go ahead to purchase a few!
    I picked up a few gorgeous Pewter Mugs at a garage sale this summer. ( Provincetown PEWTERLITE by F.B. ROGERS Co., from Taunton, Mass. )
    Can I use them the same way I would use the copper? ( A couple of them look like the finish on the inside has “pitted” or rubbed off )

  16. Doug says:

    I just read on the Sur La Table web site on the Copper Mug page:

    PROP 65 WARNING: Handling this product exposes you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

    Their Mugs are Copper exterior; food-safe nickel interior. What could they possibly mean?

    • Not sure about the mugs that site offers, but the mugs we have are 100% lead-free. Many are completely made of natural copper, while others are reinforced with stainless steel, but no lead whatsoever!

  17. Dan says:

    For those concerned about chemicals, try using ketchup. I use it on the copper cook ware and it does a great job,

  18. Laney says:

    “The lime juice is also brought to life by the extra-cold copper, heightening the tangy citrus notes and reducing the acidity to better compliment the spicy ginger beer.”

    Lime juice is acidic, so I don’t think it would reduce the acidity!

  19. Mike says:

    I can confirm. I have been using ketchup, lemon, vinegar and/or salt on our copper pans and mugs for a long time. The way the cleaners that are store bought make me uncomfortable. There is a great article on cleaning with some videos here:

  20. Michelle says:

    My sister gave me a copper cup because I fell in love with Moscow Mules while visiting my niece in Florida. I was really delighted that the cup was lined as I did not want a pure copper cup. I have some friends who are suffering from copper poisoning – leaching from their pipes in the house – and just the thought of drinking out of something that wasn’t lined gave me the willies. But that’s just me. Thanks for letting me put my two cents in.

  21. Lauren, I’m glad you caught this incorrect use of an apostrophe and took the time to make mention of it. Based on that, I suspect you’d love a Facebook group called the Apostrophe Protection Society. Members post pics of their favorite and/or most loathsome apostrophe fails. Always good for some laughs!

  22. Robyn says:

    Is it safe to use these mugs for hot drinks?

    • Kelly Jones says:

      Yes, but for really hot beverages we encourage you to only hold it from the handle as copper is a conductor for heat and you don’t want to get to burned!

  23. Dakota S says:

    A 50/50 water and white vinegar mix plus a scouring pad or the back of a sponge will help clean the mug of corrosion. Using chemicals like beekeepers friend work well but can have adverse effects. If you need to really get rid of corosion you can do the 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in a pot, heat it up and add 1 tbs of baking SODA to it then scrub lightly with the soft side of a sponge. Make sure to rinse thoroughly. Do this only when you absolutely have to because it will wear out your copper quickly if it’s done every time you clean

  24. Larry M says:

    Maybe i missed it, but don’t think I saw anything about hot-tinned linings. The venerable jacob bromwell brand touts theirs and attests that their methods are proprietary. Any insights on tin as a lining? Their products are individually and American made from what I gather, and really do sell for a premium. Opinion on their product? thx.

  25. D. Wood says:

    One small point of miss-information. The first Polaroid camera wasn’t sold until near the end of 1948 so it would have been tough to use it to promote the Mule in the early forties.

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