You Can Pry My Moscow Mule Mugs from My Cold, Lifeless Fingers

Like rose gold, but better. Because there’s vodka inside.

You Can Pry My Moscow Mule Mugs from My Cold, Lifeless Fingers

Last week, news began to circulate that poorly-made copper Moscow mule mugs can cause food poisoning, and if you have a Moscow mule habit, you should reconsider your choice of vessel.

Of course, a bunch of articles appeared over the next few days to debunk the original claim. This one made me the most confident.

That nasty rumor mill is always trying to ruin my good time.

The gist is that copper isn’t good for you, and over time, your Moscow mule can absorb infinitesimal traces of metallic elements and deliver them straight to your mouth. Copper dissolves more quickly than glass and most other metals (and you’re probably not drinking out of a metal cup too often, anyway). Moscow mules are made, as you probably know, of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, and the mixture has a pH within the range that is corrosive to copper. (Lime juice is probably the biggest culprit, here, although it contributes the least volume to a properly-made drink.) In short, your Moscow Mule is gradually eating away at the copper mug by actually absorbing the copper mug, which you are then ingesting. Fun!

Scientists say that, 1. copper is not entirely bad for humans, and in fact we need some to live, and 2. if you’re really worried about it, just buy Moscow Mule mugs that are lined with a noncorrosive material.

My thoughts? Well, I’m no chemist so I’m not going to tell you what to do. (And I actually do have a good friend who is a chemist, but I’m not going to ask her for her professional opinion until the next time we are actually drinking together, and it’s likely the conversation would somehow turn to car parts, anyway.) It seems like common sense that if you’re going to drink out of copper, make sure it’s high-quality copper. That seems like the responsible thing to do, if you’re going to spend money on a largely decorative item that you can easily do without.

My own set of Moscow Mule mugs happened to be a housewarming gift and I wouldn’t replace them even if I knew they were dangerous, and I’m not actually convinced that they are. I’m going to go with the debunking chemist in the HuffPo article linked above, because she works at UMass and I almost went to school there, and because I’d rather be ignorant on this issue. We played with mercury in high school chem class and most of us turned out fine.

So, why were people so worked up about this? Sure, Moscow Mules are having a moment. Ginger beer is wicked popular right now and the pretty copper mugs look great in photos, like a rose gold iPhone. I won’t begrudge them their trendiness, because Moscow Mules are fantastic.

I was skeptical, at first, not the least of all because I think my first Moscow Mule was consumed in a far-flung suburban Tilted Kilt. But I love a good Dark and Stormy, which is like a Moscow Mule except it uses very dark rum instead of vodka, resulting in a much sweeter drink with heavier mouthfeel. I’d hesitate to say the Moscow Mule is lighter — it packs quite a punch, after all — but it is a lot more refreshing.

It’s a lot of fun to drink a Moscow Mule from its traditional vessel. They’re functional as well as pretty; they keep the drink well chilled. Yet I drink Dark and Stormys from regular glasses all the time, and if that works, it’ll work for a Moscow Mule, too. Just serve ‘em in mason jars or something. In short, don’t let the controversy scare you off. We only have a month or so left to enjoy this perfect summer drink.

Cherise Threewitt
Cherise Threewitt
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Cherise Threewitt

Freelance writer and editor based in Chicago.

See all posts by Cherise Threewitt