04 January 2012

Noise's Effect on the Taste of Alcohol

A recent experimental study sought to delve into how the perception of noise can effect the taste of alcohol. The study took into account, sweetness, bitterness, and alcohol strength.

The study appeared, uncritically in a mainstream free daily paper stating that "loud music makes alcohol taste sweeter, therefore you drink more". Although this can broadly be said to be one of the findings of the study, it does not take into account the many flaws, and variables within the experiment and also leaves out many of the other findings.

The study took place over 5 hours with 80 participants. 11 were male and 69 female. Each participant was observed for 45 minutes in laboratory conditions whilst they drank a cranberry and vodka.

Participants were subjected to 4 conditions and asked to rate flavour perception under each. Conditions were:
  • Loud music
  • Whilst listening to a news story and then being asked to reapeat the story back
  • Having music in one ear and news in the other ear
  • Nothing
Amongst the flaws were the fact that the participants had prior knowledge of what was being studied meaning their perceptions could already be altered. The group was predominantly female, all whom were aged between 18-28 and already regular drinkers and the study took place in artificial lab setting, not in "real" settings.

Although participants did rate their drink as tasting sweeter whilst listening to loud music, this does not account for the conclusion "Loud music make you drink more". There could be a number of other factors including the need to release inhibitions, freeing you to dance or being unable to talk as the music volume prevents it.

The study also found, if alcohol strength appeared higher sweetness would decrease whilst bitterness increased. Perception of alcohol was impaired when listening to both music and news as well as causing a more negative mood. And people rated the drink as less bitter whilst listening to music, however the effect was much more marginal.

What is interesting though is that the study was based on a previous experiment which found that music alters the taste of food. Which poses an interesting question in the bar world. Can you change peoples perception of a drink through music?

We have probably all heard of foods being served with headphones to fully stimulate senses and simulate a scene so why not drinks. (See the Drink Factory Havanna Pod) Many bars already have a strict music policy, ensuring that the atmosphere is controlled and maintained throughout the evening.

Why not go further than that and make music a continuation of the cocktail. For instance smooth jazz to accompany smooth old fashioned or Manhattan. Maybe a light hearted and warm electronic track to compliment a bramble or roots/reggae music for a long tropical rum punch.

Any suggestions for fitting music / cocktail pairings are welcome!!

1 comment:

Rafa said...

I'd like to think of a pairing for beer, but I feel like beer is so varied! PBR and punk?