Hydroflask gets my endorsement because they have thick insulated lids (which makes a big difference), and they don't have any parts that are hard to clean. REI seems to have the best selection and prices, but they do also have them on Amazon.
I literally don't use regular cups at all anymore — a thermal mug keeps milk icy cold, beer frosty, and tea or coffee toasty warm. The general idea: keep your beverage at the perfect temperature longer.
I think the 12oz Hydro Flask mug is probably nicest for people at home.
You can even put your ice cream in a thermal mug or food jar to keep it from melting before you're done! (as a matter of fact, I have a Thermos food jar that I scoop a pint of ice cream into and store in the freezer compartment of my mini-fridge and it stays frozen and fresh instead of turning into a goopy mess via the melting/freezing cycle.)
These are expensive enough that you're probably not going to want to use them for a large gathering, but if you've already converted and have a collection, I'd put them out by the
You can also get party cups that are insulated, though obviously less-so. I've seen brown rippled ones that look great for an event.
When the outside temperature is either hot or cold, that can cause your drink to lose its temperature much faster, and is also a time when a cold refreshing beverage (or a warm soothing one), is that much more appreciated. I bring thermal mugs, but also thermoses: chilled white wine for a concert in the park, hot cocoa for star-gazing, or just a way to keep your freshly brewed camp coffee hot for the stragglers.
I don't have one myself, I finally got one during a Costco sale (turns out that they have the best price in town even on a regular day, $30 below the rest(!) if you’re content with the grey, which is actually quite nice). For keeping things warm, I think the ratings are now good enough to justify gifting the new 14oz Ember Mug to a loved one who nurses their hot beverage of choice.
Testing notes: It is very weird (good weird though!) to take a sip of tea or coffee that you’ve been neglecting for 20 minutes and have it be exactly as hot as it was the last time you took a sip. I pretty much exclusively use insulated mugs, so I’m accustomed to it still being warm, but it being hot still makes me do a double-take (did 20 minutes not just go by? am I in a time-warp?? was I abducted by aliens?!)
Bonus that I didn’t think of: I don’t have to worry about burning my tongue anymore or accidentally cooling it down too much with half & half in an attempt to get it to a drinkable temperature faster. #1: I can look at my phone to see what the actual live temperature is and #2: if I cool it down too much, it will just heat right back up in a minute or two!
I think I will really like this if/when I’m sick and want a pretty constant supply of hot/soothing bone broth and tea.
The Ember also solves an issue with thermal mugs: the way that they typically work is basically via establishing a barrier between the temperature of the contents and the temperature of the room (or your hands) on the outside of the cup. This means that the outside of thermal mugs don’t have that warm soothing hot-cocoa-in-both-hands-after-coming-in-from-the-snow feature. But the Ember works by actively heating your drink as it would otherwise be naturally cooling and so they compromised on the barrier which makes the outside of the cup warm. Not hot, but warm enough for that soothing vibe.
They’ve finally made a lid for it, which both helps it to retain heat longer and also kinda turns it into a travel mug. (I have a holiday ritual where I get a decaf peppermint mocha and go for a walk in the park with it, but it’s often not as hot as I’d like and my hands also need warming, but it’s seemed too weird to bring my ember to the shop with me. I think the lid’s going to be a game changer since my lifestyle can’t really justify the travel version, which also has a smaller capacity.) Note: with the lid on, I need to drop the set temp on my mug about 4 degrees, because the surface isn’t cooling.
✨ Cleaning tip for stainless steel thermal mugs and thermoses:
Turns out that whatever is in denture cleaners (primarily baking soda?) does an amazing job on the residue that doesn’t want to scrub out of your mugs. They have some branded for this specifically but they’re way more expensive. You can get like 120 tablets for like $5 if you don’t care about it being off-brand usage. I plop one in and fill the mug with very warm water and leave it overnight before dumping and rinsing and admiring. ✨
I also like the OXO bottlebrush (linking the whole set here because most thermal mugs have lids that are a little fiddly to clean) for any where my hand doesn’t quite fit (though I also favor purchasing ones where it does comfortably fit because since none of these go in the dishwasher, you’ll scrub them out all the time).
Bar keepers friend might also be worth a try?