This is the first post from Darcy O’Neil, a bartender and chemist in London, Ontario. He publishes The Art of Drink.
Have you ever wondered why one person loves a drink and another hates it? Most people have a basic understanding of personal preference, but do you really understand what makes a persons taste buds tick? What if you could harness the knowledge of someone’s individual preferences? That is part of the goal of Sensory Perception and Mixology. At this session we’ll be discussing a whole lot of technical details, in a fun and entertaining fashion, on the way humans taste.It shouldn’t come as a surprise that how we perceive flavours is more than just what our tongue touches. Most people know that aroma / smell accounts for a large part of the enjoyment of food and drink. But did you know that your mood affects how you taste and that what the person drinking beside you also has an influence?
Beyond that, genetics plays an important role and one of the highlights of Sensory Perception and Mixology is that we will be screening for the TAS2R38 gene using a genetically specific taste test. During the event, everyone will be given the opportunity to try a PTC taste strip (similar to PROP). Basically, this is a piece of paper impregnated with a chemical that can only be tasted by people with the TAS2R38 gene. People with this gene fall into the Taster category and those who don’t, are called Non-Tasters.
The Taster category is actually split into Normal and Super tasters. The difference between a Super Taster and Non-Taster can be significantly different and their choice of drinks are sometimes at the opposite end of the cocktail spectrum. Serving the wrong drink could be detrimental to your tip!
The other part of the equations is whether you are a super, normal or non-taster. Knowing what you are can really help bring your cocktails to the next level, because it will help to “calibrate” your palate. This session is your opportunity to find out a little about yourself.
I’ll be providing extra taste strips to everyone who attends so they can take them home and test their spouse, friends, co-workers, etc. It is actually very entertaining to watch some people taste the PTC paper.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ll be sampling a couple of simple cocktails to demonstrate how sweet, sour, salty and bitter influence one another. We’ll also go through many taste relationships to help you create better cocktails. The applications are endless, but as an example, a lot of the knowledge in this session can be applied to things like “diet” cocktails. By manipulating the recipe with various aromas, viscosity modifiers and ethanol concentrations you can actually make a drink taste sweeter than it really is. Intrigued yet?
Last, but not least, I have encouraged some of the top bartenders / mixologist to join me for the session. Audrey Saunders (Pegu Club, NY), Robert “Drinkboy” Hess and Jamie Boudreau have kindly agreed to sit on the panel and help create some entertaining, yet informative, dialogue.
I’m burning the midnight oil to get this session as good as it can be, so if you are in New Orleans on July 18 drop by the Monteleone at 4:30pm and check out Sensory Perception and Mixology.