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McDonald’s Engineers a New Type of Straw for Slurping Shamrock Shakes

The Shamrock Shake has been a seasonal McDonald’s specialty for decades, but even the classics can benefit from a high-tech update. This year, the fast food chain is launching a new version of the treat that layers the traditional mint flavor on top of chocolate. And in promotion of the new product, McDonald’s is also releasing a reinvented straw.

As Co.Design reports, the STRAW (Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal) was designed by real engineers at the aerospace and robotics engineering firms JACE and NK Labs. What sets the device apart from conventional straws is the sharp bend in its shape and the three, eye-shaped holes in addition to the opening at the bottom end. The extra holes are positioned in a way that allows drinkers to take a sip that’s equal parts top mint layer and bottom chocolate layer. As the video below illustrates, it’s “a spectacularly unnecessary product.”

A total of 2000 STRAWs, complete with fancy, black carrying cases, will be given out for free at McDonald’s in 80 cities. You have the next few weeks to snatch up yours if you don’t want to be stuck sipping milkshakes the old-fashioned way.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Food
It’s Still Summer, But Pumpkin Spice Lattes Are Already Here
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Starbucks

It’s August, so go ahead and gird yourself for pumpkin season. Yes, that tell-tale sign of impending autumn, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, is about to come back, according to Fortune. The company hasn't released a specific launch date, but it just announced that a new bottled version of the latte will be coming to grocery stores this month, along with pumpkin spice ground coffee.

Last year, the PSL arrived in Starbucks stores on September 1; the year before, it was September 8. There's no denying that the coffee chain is forcing its fall favorites on us earlier and earlier. Early enough to make us consider getting that Pumpkin Spice over ice, in fact.

The much-derided orange beverage is just the most famous example of a marketing trend that spreads far beyond coffee. As early as late July, pumpkin-flavored snacks, cookies, cereals, and other foods you wouldn’t think should taste like pumpkin start hitting stores, giving the people what they really want: to pretend they’re cozying up in a scarf on a rainy fall day instead of sitting in front of their air conditioners in their underwear.

Why does Starbucks keep pushing the starting line of the fall season closer and closer to mid-summer? Dollar bills, obviously. In the first decade after the drink’s launch in 2003, the company sold around 200 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes. In 2015, Forbes estimated that it would make $100 million from the PSL that fall alone. Despite the online hate, a huge chunk of people loooove their PSLs.

These days, it’s not fall until someone starts hating on the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Besides, climate change will eventually render seasons moot, right?

[h/t Fortune]

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Health
Attention Moscow Mule Fans: Those Copper Mugs May Pose a Serious Health Threat
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iStock

Even if you can’t list the ingredients in a Moscow Mule, you may be able to recognize one from across a bar: The simple combination of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer is traditionally served in a copper mug. But that trendy vessel could pose a serious health threat, according to public health officials. As CBS News reports, the potential for food poisoning from those iconic cups is severe enough that the state of Iowa is taking a stand against them.

Copper is commonly used to make kitchenware like pots and pans, but when it comes into contact with certain foods, it can be unsafe. Foods and liquids that have a pH lower than 6.0, and are therefore acidic, can erode the copper and copper alloys and cause them to mix with whatever’s being consumed. The pH of lime juice falls between 2.0 and 2.35 [PDF], so the chances of copper contamination from a Moscow Mule sloshing inside a copper mug all night are high.

Symptoms of copper poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and yellow skin or jaundice. Even if you feel fine after a night of Moscow Mule imbibing, long-term effects like liver damage can occur over time. In response to these hazards, Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division released a statement [PDF] advising against the use of Moscow Mule mugs. “The recent popularity of Moscow Mules, an alcoholic cocktail typically served in a copper mug, has led to inquiries regarding the safe use of copper mugs and this beverage,” it reads. “The use of copper and copper alloys as a food contact surface is limited in Iowa.”

If you’re hesitant to put your Moscow Mule obsession to bed, there are ways to enjoy the drink safely without sacrificing the classic look. When stocking your bar at home, make sure to include copper mugs lined with food-safe metal like nickel or stainless steel. And when you’re ordering the drink elsewhere, you can check with the bartender to see if they have similar containers. If not, asking for the drink in a boring old glass is your safest bet.

[h/t CBS News]

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