Sensory Perception and Mixology

Darcy O'Neil :: March 31, 2008 9:16 PM

Why do certain people recoil in horror at the taste of Italian bitters and why do others gag on super sweet drinks? Then of course we've all know the guy who can't get enough suicide sauce in his Caesar (Bloody Mary) or the Dirty Martini addict. Maybe you are one of them. Have you ever wanted to understand how people taste and why there is such diversity.  If you are an aspiring mixologist or a professional who wants an edge, then knowing how people perceive flavours is a very important thing. Luckily, I'll be discussing this very stuff at Tales of the Cocktail in July and in this session we'll be doing a genetically specific taste test to help figure out who you are plus a whole lot more. Read on for more details.

Taste is such an individual thing, and scientifically there are classes of tasters, because we are all different. The three categories are "Non-Taster", "Normal Taster" and Super-Taster". Normal tasters are Mr. & Mrs. Average, and sit in the midrange. Non-Tasters are the lower 20% and  Super-tasters the upper 20%. These numbers fluctuate depending on heritage and sex, but for the most part 60% of the population are normal tasters.

So what does this have to do with making cocktails? Well, if you are a bartender with non-taster status, creating cocktails, your drinks are probably going to be on the "flavourful" side of the equation. This may appeal to the non-taster customers you have, but might be a bit much for the normal-tasters and you gotta feel sorry for the super-tasters after they try your "perfect" Bloody Mary. If you are a mixologist with super-taster status, then a lot of your creations might seem bland to the 80% of the population that are not super-tasters.

If you know what kind of taster you are, then you can "calibrate" your palate to better accommodate your friends, guests, customers, preferences. Otherwise you are basically a blind person trying to drive.

During the Sensory Perception session, I'll be presenting everyone with a PTC (Phenylthiocarbamide) taste strip to help determine what taster status you are. This chemical is genetically specific and will help guide you on your way to taste enlightenment. Also, I'll have extra strips for people to take home and test on their friends, coworkers or spouse. I highly recommend the spouse test because I discovered I live with a super-taster, which answered a whole lot of questions. Basically, like achieving enlightenment, a little gong went off in my head, and I finally understood.

Aside from the taste testing, I'll also be looking at how the different flavours affect each other and how certain combinations can be used to influence one another. There will be a little cocktail interlude to demonstrate these flavourful effects. We'll also look at why being a super-taster might not be as enviable as you'd think and why some people are attracted to alcohol while others are repulsed.

It is going to be an information packed session and I've lined up some great panelists to help the discussion (Audrey Saunders, Robert Hess, and Jamie Boudreau). So, if you want to take your mixology skills to the next level, this is a session you shouldn't miss.

Sensory Perception and Mixology
What Your Tastebuds are Telling You

When: Friday July 18th at 4:30PM
Location: Hotel Monteleone, 214 Rue Royal
Tickets: $40 (Available April 1st)



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