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Is it safe to drink a cocktail with dry ice in it?

Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, is commonly used in cocktails for its visually appealing smoking effect. However, there are safety concerns around ingesting dry ice that need to be considered.

What is Dry Ice?

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2). At room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure, carbon dioxide transitions directly from a solid to a gas through a process called sublimation. This skipping of the liquid phase is what gives dry ice its smoke-like appearance when added to drinks.

Dry ice has a temperature of -109°F (-78°C). This extreme cold is what makes it useful for keeping items frozen during transport. However, this very low temperature also makes dry ice potentially dangerous to ingest.

Is Dry Ice Safe to Ingest?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against ingesting dry ice. When swallowed, the extremely cold temperature can burn the mouth and throat. Dry ice can also release carbon dioxide gas inside the body, which poses a choking hazard.

Even small amounts of dry ice, like a pea-sized pellet, can cause injuries when ingested. Larger amounts increase the risks of severe internal burns and rupture of the esophagus or stomach.

Injuries from Ingesting Dry Ice

There have been reported cases of injuries and hospitalizations from people swallowing dry ice:

  • A 19-year-old woman suffered severe stomach pain and vomiting of blood after ingesting a pea-sized piece of dry ice.
  • A teenager required emergency surgery after swallowing a drink containing dry ice. The carbon dioxide gas release caused a near-complete obstruction of his esophagus.
  • A woman experienced tears in her esophagus after taking a shot with dry ice. She required weeks of hospitalization.

Children are especially at risk for injuries, as they may accidentally swallow pieces of dry ice when it is used around drinks.

Safety Tips for Using Dry Ice in Drinks

While ingesting dry ice is not recommended, there are some safety precautions you can take when using it in cocktails:

  • Use only small amounts: Limit dry ice to one or two pea-sized pellets per drink. Never let it take up more than 10% of the glass.
  • Don’t let it sit: Dry ice should be added right before serving and consumed quickly before it can fully sublimate.
  • Avoid touching it: Only use tweezers or tongs to handle dry ice. Never let it touch your bare skin due to risk of frostbite.
  • Don’t give to children: Ensure drinks with dry ice are kept away from and not consumed by children.
  • Warn others: Let anyone drinking a cocktail with dry ice know that it is not meant to be ingested.

Even with precautions, it is still possible for someone to accidentally swallow dry ice from a drink. Using it is best avoided in any uncontrolled or unsafe drinking environments.

Alternatives to Dry Ice

If you want an interesting smoking effect in a cocktail without the risks of dry ice, some safer alternatives include:

  • Gelatin bubbles filled with vapor – Add glycerin or water-soluble flavor extracts to create smoke inside gelatin spheres.
  • Liquid nitrogen – Gives a dramatic smoking effect as it warms and evaporates but is not as extremely cold.
  • Food-grade smoke powders – Made from glycerin and natural flavors. Add a small amount to the top of drinks.
  • Cocktail foggers – Battery-operated devices that produce a vapor to layer over the drink surface.
  • Dry ice cubes – Large frozen cubes that chill a drink without adding loose dry ice pieces.


Dry ice can create impressive smoking effects in cocktails but comes with risks when ingested due to its extremely low temperature. Ingesting even small amounts can potentially cause severe internal injuries. While dry ice can be used safely in small quantities with precautions, avoid letting it come into contact with the mouth or bare skin.

For a safer experience, use dry ice alternatives to add drama and interest to cocktails without the dangers of accidental consumption.