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Craft cocktails: can they make me sick?

Most people enjoy a nice drink in moderation, and the craft cocktail genre has really expanded with delicious options in recent years. But what if the methods used to make that drink could make you sick or permanently damage your health?

Not as safe as assumed

Most of us assume that if we are consuming a beverage in a public establishment, that health and safety codes would make it likely that we aren’t drinking harmful things. But often it is the combination of specific ingredients that creates the health hazard, rather than the individual ingredients. Unfortunately, some of the results may not be safe or legal when consumed.

Writer spreads the word on safety

When a drinks writer in San Francisco started to learn more about the problem, he created a website aimed at educating bartenders on the risk called: www.cocktailsafe.org. The website identifies specific methods or ingredients that can be searched, providing information on the risk posed and how it can be reduced or avoided.

Some topics of concern include:

  • Botulism resulting from a fat washing method that enhances flavor;
  • Use of antique mugs or vintage crystal glassware due to widespread use of lead glazes;
  • Copper leaching from unlined copper mugs used to serve a Moscow mule;
  • Improper wood used in barrel aging;
  • Homemade tonic syrups;
  • The difference between ginger and wild ginger, the latter of which is toxic.

Warnings listed link to citations

The topics listed on the site are supported by citations linked to medical journals or other reliable sources. It also lists suggestions to help reduce the hazard. For example, the leaded crystal entry says to avoid storing wine or alcohols overnight or for extended periods of time, as the risk of lead leaching is higher.

There is no doubt that the risk of harm is very real, demonstrated by the ordeal of a young English woman who had her stomach perforated after drinking a cocktail with Jägermeister and liquid nitrogen. She suffered lifelong injuries as a result. If you were injured by a drink served at a bar, it is important that you speak to a personal injury attorney about your situation and learn about your rights.

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