Can I Get Sick From Drinking Moscow Mules?

The Short Answer from an emergency medicine physician

Q: Can I get sick from drinking Moscow Mules?

A: You’ve probably seen warnings about food poisoning from the copper mugs in which this vodka, ginger beer and lime juice cocktail is served. The concern is that acid from the lime juice causes copper to leach out from the mug.

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But you’d have to drink an awful lot of Moscow Mules to develop a problem. It’s one thing to talk about lead poisoning from moonshine, which is a legitimate concern.

But fear of poisoning from copper or other alloys reminds me of fears of aluminum exposure from cookware and antiperspirants in the 1970s and 1980s. Findings from studies on a link between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum exposure have been unclear.

Also, Moscow Mules have been around for some time, and we haven’t seen any issues. The symptoms reported — stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting and even skin yellowing — can be attributed to many other conditions.

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The bottom line is that taking anything in large quantities can cause problems. Ben Franklin said it best: “All things in moderation.”

From my perspective as an emergency physician, your risk of injury from intoxication — in the form of trauma, accidents, slips, falls, sprains, strains and bruises — is far greater than your risk of copper poisoning.

If you’re still worried about the safety of Moscow Mules, you can check that the copper mug has a stainless steel lining. (Or, to eliminate all health risks, enjoy a non-alcoholic ginger beer.)

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Seth Podolsky, MD, emergency medicine physician