The humble ceramic mug is no longer relegated to diners or dives these days, all brown and hourglass-shaped, with a few chips here and there. The trend toward the handmade in restaurants and cafes has quickly spilled over into drinking vessels, making coffee service something to look forward to (or at least enough to skip taking your cup to go). They can be as sculptural as they are functional, as beautiful as they are durable, and maybe even in the shape of a rum barrel.
We searched high and low to find the mugs and cups you’ve been coveting on the tables of your favorite restaurants, cafes, and bars, to learn which artists, brands, or retailers are behind them — so you can snag them for yourself.
First up: New Zealand’s Acme Cups, spotted at Seven Point Espresso in Brooklyn, offers several different lines in muted colors like blue, aqua, and gray with white interiors. The Evolution range has both a demitasse and a flat white option, in addition to a cappuccino size if that’s more your speed. (There are larger sizes, too.) Bonus: They’ve produced a sleek teaspoon that’s durable and balances easily on saucers, so no fear of your sugar cube flying off in transit.
Buy Acme Evolution Flat White Mug, $9
Joe Cole, who played a large part in sourcing the interior elements for June’s All Day in Austin, said their mugs are from the American Modern line by 20th-century designer Russel Wright, now produced by Bauer Pottery. “Russel Wright’s work... is not often used in commercial settings,” he said. But the Wright mugs, squat and colorful, echo the vibrant interiors of June’s and are ideal for the space.
Buy Bauer Pottery American Modern Cup & Saucer, $36
Some of the most recognized restaurants and hotels in the country use Jono Pandolfi’s ceramics, from Eleven Madison Park to the NoMad and Ace hotels. The brand’s espresso and coffee cups, as well as mugs, saucers, and creamers, are produced in a Union City, New Jersey studio, with a process that includes jiggering, trimming, attaching the handle, and glazing by hand. With a rough, dark brown outer edge and a smooth, glossy cream interior, Pandolfi’s pieces have an understated elegance that doesn’t read too rustic.
Speckled Churchill Stonecast mugs and saucers are on the tables at Otway in New York. “We wanted a ceramic look but knew that they wouldn’t survive the day-to-day use,” said owner Samantha Safer. “Durability and functionality are extremely important. The Churchill line holds up to our high volume brunches while also being on-point with our aesthetic.” Their vintage spoon collection, says Safer, provides the perfect contrast of old and new.
Buy Churchill Stonecast Cappuccino Cup, $68 for six
At Sunday in Brooklyn, partner Adam Landsman said they commissioned local Williamsburg artist Amy Korb to make them mugs with a certain quality that would be particularly useful in the restaurant: “She made these mugs to be stackable for us and most handmade mugs are not,” he said. “We love them!” For purchase, Korb takes special orders via email.
The brightly colored, textured ceramic cups at Brooklyn’s Olmsted’s have not gone unnoticed. (Most recently, Eater’s Monica Burton wrote of their brilliance.) They’re made by Tulya Madra of Santimetre Studio, who Olmsted owner/chef Greg Baxtrom first met when she dined at the restaurant. “She came in for dinner and had our carrot crepe, and then shortly after she came by and gifted us some beautiful orange plates; she thought it would complement that dish well,” said Baxtrom. “We’ve been working with her ever since!” Because Madra’s plates and mugs go so well with Olmsted’s dishes, they decided to use her work for everything at the restaurant. “They’re so unique, and it’s those little touches that help to make the dining experience feel special,” he said.
Each order is custom: Madra lets customers pick their desired patterns and colors for countless possible combinations.
Buy Santimetre Beykoz Cups, starting at $70
Ceramicist Alexandria Cummings makes the mugs at Tusk in Portland, Oregon. “I enjoy working with artists that love what they do, and you can feel and see it in her work,” says Joshua McFadden, founding partner of Submarine Hospitality, who provided creative direction of Tusk and selected Cummings to make the mugs. In addition to solo options, Cummings offers a Cup Club and a Mug Club, year-long subscriptions in which recipients get four new mugs or cups over the course of a year. While the exact teal mugs from Tusk aren’t available right, Cummings always has new designs in the works.
Buy Alexandria Cummings Mugs, $32 and up
Nashville’s Salt Ceramics, made by Jess Cheatham, show up in restaurants around town like Rolf and Daughters, Folk, and Cafe Roze. Her work is wheel-thrown, coated in food-safe glaze, and fired in an electric kiln. The designs oscillate between calm earthiness and cheeky art. While the exact styles from Nashville’s top eateries are no longer available, Cheatham has new designs in the works.
Buy Salt Ceramics Mugs, $55 and up
Tiki bars have proliferated over the past few years, and Chicago’s Lost Lake offers its own funky-funny ceramic mugs for sale. Somewhat unconventional, their shapes and sizes are a much welcome humorous foil to neutral Instagrammable fare. And who doesn’t want a pufferfish or skull mug?
Buy Lost Lake Tiki Pufferfish Mug and Skully Mug, $20 each
At La Mercerie, the cafe inside of RW Guild — design studio Roman & Williams’ retail store — in New York, there’s a menu for the tabletop items, which can be packed up for you as you grab your check. Ceramic cups and mugs from the likes of KH Wurtz, John Julian, and Luna, among other artisans, are available for purchase; the best part is the chance to sip a cafe au lait or espresso from them before you buy. The simple white mugs from KH Wurtz are particularly special.
Buy KH Wurtz Cup With Handle, $90