Drinking a Moscow Mule out of a finely crafted copper mug is one of the great pleasures of life. Like so many iconic cocktails, the experience is indelibly tied to the drinking vessel itself. For many aficionados, to be served in anything other than a copper mug is to make the cocktail, well, something else. The ingredients might be the same, but the experience is decidedly lacking.
But could there be a danger to enjoying your Mule out of a copper mug?
According to a flurry of articles that made their way around the internet last summer, a Moscow Mule can purportedly corrode the copper interior, causing it to be leached into the food, so as someone ingests their favorite drink, they unknowingly ingest metal.
It’s a scary thought, right? But how much creedence is there to this claim?
Publishers, ever eager for consumer’s clicks, were more than happy to craft clickbait titles alluding to the ‘dangers’ of being ‘poisoned’ by your favorite drink. Though if one were to read any of these articles, it becomes clear that the risks are little to none. Still, for many that didn’t get past the alarmist title, the damage is done, the message taken away is that copper drinkware is dangerous.
So how much risk is there really when it comes to drinking out of a copper mug?
Trisha Andrew, an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at UMass Amherst, told the Huffington Post that the concerns around copper drinkware amount to nothing more than simple “fear-mongering.”
She goes on to explain that there is indeed a minute level of corrosion that occurs in all drinkware, even glassware, but the fact of the matter is that the process is on such a molecular level that the effects of drinking from these items is – for all intents and purposes – nonexistent.
And yes, while that dissolution process does happen a little faster with copper, Andrew insisted it’s not that fast. In fact, she called the idea of being afraid to drink from a copper mug “nonsensical.”
But molecular amounts of copper are still copper, and so in the interest of our customers peace of mind, we independently commissioned tests from Colgate University and Oregon State University.
In the end their results debunked all of those fear-mongering articles. Moscow Mules made in our copper drinkware had levels of the metal at the “absolute lowest detection limit”, which the lead scientist described as “virtually nothing”. Copper levels could be increased, but only through the sheer effort of specifically finding a lab scenario that would increase it. Even then, ppm (parts per million) amounts never even reached the threshold that’s considered safe and permitted in our tap water.
It should also be noted that we ingest trace elements of copper all the time, and that it’s in fact essential to red blood cell creations and the repair of our nerve endings. Dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, and chickpeas are all sources of dietary copper. If you take a multivitamin, one of the essential elements in them will indeed be copper.
For many articles that lay claim to the fact that copper drinkware might be harming us, they arrive at this conclusion by massaging the data to create an unrealistic scenario where it might be unsafe. Their ‘stats’ rely on old, uncleaned copper mugs where especially acidic Moscow Mule recipes are left to sit for 2 hours or more. Then they assume you might consume 10 or more of these room temperature cocktails from dirty mugs in succession, and with these mental gymnastics you can find your way to a scary article title that will drive web traffic.
In the end the important takeaway is that copper drinkware is perfectly safe when used in a common sense manner. It should be cleaned and cared for, and it’s probably not wise to let your carefully crafted cocktail sit in your mug for half a day before drinking it (and then drink 9 more). Even then, you’re probably going to walk away with little more than a stomach ache, if anything at all.
For copper drinkware to be dangerous you have to use it dangerously and with a disregard for common sense. The fact of the matter is that you would have to drink upwards of 20 moscow mules A DAY for years on end to feel the potential adverse effects of copper drinkware, and at that rate it’s the effects of the alcohol that are going to present a much more insidious danger to your health. At that rate you’re drinking upwards of 100 gallons of vodka a year, and it’s probably safe to say that you’re not focussed on making sure each drink is a carefully crafted cocktail in a beautiful copper mug. A funnel would be a more effective and appropriate delivery method.
So tip your copper mugs and enjoy a carefully crafted Moscow Mule knowing that there is no bad drinkware, only bad drinkers.