4:27pm – The panelists for this highly anticipated session are Darcy O’Neil, Robert Hess, Jamie Boudreau, Audrey Saunders, and Eben Freeman. In front of us is a mysterious and small manila envelope. If I had to wager, I’d say it contains taste strips. These strips may, indeed, make some super-tasters in the room cry. We shall see. (Craig, “I wonder if their tears will be salty?”)
4:35pm – We’re going to discuss how taste works, things that affect taste, taster status, do a taste test and cocktail trail. There are three kinds of tasters: non-tasters, normal tasters, and super-tasters.
4:38pm – The tongue can taste sweet, salty, bitter, sour, savory, and metallic (saved for New Orleans vampires). Spiciness and coolness are more sensations, but can be worked with in cocktails. There is even a reward system in the brain for water.
4:41pm – The obvious category for cocktails is sweetness. Super-tasters can be extra sensitive to sweetness, especially with fake sugars which can taste bitter. Sugar when mixed saltiness, acidity, and bitterness reduces the intensity of those flavors.
4:44pm – Adding salt to a cocktail increases its sweetness. Acidity increases saltiness and bitterness and reduces sweetness. Darcy is touching on the super-cool miracle fruit. It makes things taste insanely sweet: soy sauce tastes like candy, lemons like lemonade, etc. Savory increases sweetness and saltiness and reduces acidity and bitterness.
4:48pm – Bitterness uses 50+ taste receptors, while the others only use a few (this is why Fernet Branca and Campari are so delicious). Many of the taste buds on the tongue will never be used if you don’t drink cocktails.
4:54pm – Adenosine Monophosphate or “anti-bitters” can be used to drastically reduce the bitterness of cocktails. If you’d add it to grapefruit juice, it would remove all the bitterness, and you’d just taste the flavor of the fruit.
4:56pm – Viscosity has a huge effect on flavor. Things like egg white, gelatin, agar, pectin. If you increase the viscosity of a cocktail it will increase its sweetness.
4:59pm – As you increase the strength of a cocktail, it becomes less sour but more bitter.
5:00pm – The panel is discussing how its important to develop your taste for bitters. Many of us have grown up on Count Chocula and Lucky Charms, so we have to attune our palate. Though we think most super-tasters avoid bitters, there is a class of super-tasters who seek it out to enjoy the bitters like a rollercoaster ride.
5:10pm – Robert Hess is telling a fun tale about his quest over time to enjoy Campari. He asked a flight attendant for it… straight, and hated it. Then he proceeded to order drinks at bars with it, still thinking “Wow, this tastes like Campari,” and not enjoying it. But then it started to catch on, and now he enjoys is straight. Well done.
5:13pm – The easiest way to reduce bitterness in a cocktail is to add salt. You can also increase viscosity, add sugar, reduce the alcohol, or cut the acidity too.
5:15pm – Our two drinks are the Greyhound and the Salty Dog. The only difference is the salted rim on the Salty Dog; it’s amazing how it reduces the bitterness of the grapefruit juice.
Greyhound and Salty Dog
- 1oz Bombay Sapphire
- 3oz grapefruit juice
Shake with ice and strain into a glass filled with ice. Salt the rim for the Salty Dog.
5:17pm – Certain aromas can increase the sweetness without changing any of the ingredients in the cocktail. A strawberry on the rim can do this. Gin is loaded with compounds that reduce sweetness, like rose and orange flower water. Most botanicals don’t have a specific taste. For example, vanilla doesn’t really have a flavor but an aroma. There are certain woods or aromas that we’ll really enjoy the smell of but won’t please our palates.
5:20pm – Milo Rodriguez, the master distiller of Bombay, is talking a bit about how he is experimenting with the botanicals in their gins, like cubeb pepper, orris (violet flavor), and grains of paradise.
5:24pm – Now we’re moving on to the mental and social affects on taste. Elevated serotonin allows you taste bitter and sweet at lower concentrations. Let’s say you drink a ton of delicious alcoholic beverages, enough to get a hangover; the next morning the same drinks that you were enjoying will taste like crap.
5:29pm – Flavorful drinks are good served to low key people and perky people may not like bitters. When you’re down drink tiki drinks… when you’re happy Darcy says to keep it low key, but he meant to say, “Drink more tiki drinks!”
5:34pm – Bloggers are the “curse of the drinking world” since we influence people’s drinking choices. We help trends like absinthe, classic cocktails, rare spirits, etc.
5:42pm – Time for the taste strips! 20% of the population doesn’t have the TAS2R38 gene, which means they’re non-tasters. 60% are normal tasters and 20% are super-tasters. PROP is a genetically specific chemical that can identify tasters and non-tasters. Women are more likely to be super-tasters as well as those of Asian and African descent. 35% of women are super-tasters and 15% of men. Men’s taste declines more rapidly. Many children have super-taster powers and grow out of them.
5:46pm – Non-tasters often enjoy spicy, salty, and fatty food. The perceive ethanol as slightly sweet and often consume the most alcohol. They also tend to weigh more than super-tasters.
5:47pm – Super-tasters have problem foods like grapefruit, coffee, soy, chili peppers, tonic water, salt, and olives. Chefs tend to be super-tasters. There are actually more chefs that are non-tasters than normal tasters. A drink may be 4-8x more intense for a super-taster than a non-taster.
5:53pm – We’re tasting the strips. A ton of people around the room are gagging from the bitterness. Us tiki folk are either tasting wet paper or a slight bitterness.
5:59pm – Many of the panels have been great so far, but this one has kept the room captivated throughout. I now have a whole new perspective on the recipe comparisons I’ve been doing on Kaiser Penguin.