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Martha Stewart stirs up controversy by putting a ‘small iceberg’ in her cocktail

Is the controversial libation dystopian, dangerous or much ado about nothing? Here’s what experts say.

Martha Stewart is in hot water over her cold beverage.

On Aug. 28, posting a series of magical images from a Swan Hellenic cruise around Greenland, Stewart wrote, “We actually captured a small iceberg for our cocktails tonight.”

For many, it’s cause to parody Stewart and other fancy foodies like Ina Garten. “If you can’t find fresh icebergs for your cocktails store bought is fine,” quipped one Instagram commenter.

Many commenters took more serious issue with the lifestyle maven neglecting to mention climate change, and the alarming retreat of the glaciers in the fjords behind her.

“Martha the ice caps are melting don’t put them in your drink,” wrote one, while another commented, “Babe we kinda need to keep that ice in the ocean.”

A few defenders note that similar cocktails are standard fare on cruises in the region, and that bottled water and liquor companies have a larger potential impact.

Still, others express dismay. “How dystopian,” writes one Instagram user, and “What’s next?” wonders another, “Homemade s’mores over embers from a Californian wildfire that’s just burned the whole town to the ground?” Other respondents use words like “irresponsible,” “tone-deaf” and “sick.”

And speaking of sick, could such indiscriminate imbibing be dangerous, harboring contaminants or zombie ice worms?

What do the experts say about this arctic aperitif?

Dr. Twila Moon, deputy lead scientist and science communication liaison for the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, says probably not. She tells that such ice is “generally safe to consume and is often added to drinks because of the unique popping sounds made by the many tiny air bubbles in the ice bursting.”

Geologist and director of the Glacier History Lab at the University at Buffalo Dr. Jason Briner agrees. As an expert on the history of Greenland’s ice sheet, he’s made many trips to study how it and the ground beneath have changed over time. “We drink the water from lakes up there, or water pouring off the glacier, and it’s never been a problem,” he says.

Briner isn’t worried that chilling a few drinks is going to sink Miami sooner than estimated, either, and although both he and Moon hope people with large platforms will use their voices for good, he declines to criticize Stewart without knowing the details, noting raising a glass might be an important chance to pay respect to a natural marvel.

“Ecotourism can be disturbing because it’s energy-consumptive,” Briner tells “But on the other hand, if it increases awareness of climate change, maybe these trips are worth it.”

Briner’s work aims to improve sea level rise predictions by comparing the effects of naturally warmer times in Earth’s history to the current warming, so while the cocktail may not be a problem, he doesn’t mince words about Earth’s increasingly erratic swings in temperature and precipitation. “Climate change is a catastrophe,” he says, “and something we need to be taking instant action on.”

And when it comes to the effects of climate change on what we put into our mouths, Dr. Michael Hoffman, Cornell Professor Emeritus and co-author of “Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need,” points out that water is just the tip of the iceberg, because nearly everything we eat is already being altered by a shifting climate. The flavors of herbs and vegetables are changing, ingredients like vanilla are scarce and crop yields of grain and coffee are dropping. And yes, even liquor production is affected by rising heat, as the “angel’s share” of alcohol lost to evaporation increases.

Still, Hoffman says, “There are unlimited stories to tell about what is happening to the foods we love and need and what we can do to keep them on the menu,” and he finds hope in a recent study showing that most Americans are concerned enough not just to make changes like eating a more plant-based diet, but also to talk about it with family and friends.

Moon agrees that the key is in connection. “Research shows that people who are working together enacting climate solutions are more optimistic about our future,” she says, “and I think that’s a dose of positive we can all use.”

Stewart didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but hopefully she agrees that’s a very good thing.