In other research, scientists explored the effects of noise on the perception of alcoholic beverages’ sweetness. The admittedly small control group (80 participants) at the University of Portsmouth had to rate the alcohol strength, sweetness and bitterness of a selection of drinks while they were exposed to different distractions, such as music, hearing and repeating a news story, both music and news, and silence. Drinks were regarded as significantly sweeter overall when the music alone was heard. When participants had both to listen to music and shadow the news story, they were less likely to detect the alcohol’s strength. A study on wine in the British Journal of Psychology likewise found music can influence the taste of wine. Results from the 250-person study suggest the wine adopted the attributes of the style of music being heard. Developers are also turning to scientific instruments to alter the flavors of alcoholic beverages, however.

“Cocktail Physics,” an article in the December 2011 issue of Physics World, finds mixologists are borrowing tools from food science labs for beverage development. One example explains the use of a rotary evaporator to deliver flavorful liquids. Plant material is distilled through a heating process, but such high heat can eliminate aroma molecules. The rotary evaporator lowers the pressure of the fermented liquid, evaporating the volatile components and then condensing the vapor back into a flavorful liquid. The technique has been used to create a mild habanero liqueur, one with the flavors of chili peppers but without the heat. pf

This is an abbreviated version of an article originally appearing in the January 9, 2012, issue of E-dition, Prepared Foods’ email newsletter. To subscribe to E-dition, visit