Why Some People Hate Drinking (and what you can do about it)


girl frowning at beer

flickr user a4gpa

Update, 2/27/13: Like this post? Check out the 250-page, 65-recipe book full of stuff like this.

this post was prepared with the assistance of Giles Cowan, a UK-based bartender who blogs about all things cocktailian (with healthy nods to science) over at DrinkFactory. go check out drinkfactory for some sweet cross-post action. now without further ado…

I take great pride in asking people what they like to drink and finding something in my home bar that will make them happy. I enjoy alcohol as a lubricant for social experiences and am convinced that in moderation, it has at least some moderate benefits to health. The vast majority of friends I’ve tested have enjoyed the drinks I’ve made them. People who swear they can’t stand hard liquor or only drink vodka have refilled on swizzles made from anejo tequila.

Except for Tom.

Tom (his real name isn’t Tom) cannot stand the taste of alcohol. At all. And I know it’s not his fault. He’s always a good sport, tasting every single drink I’ve made for him. Each time, he smiles, as if confident this time, this drink, he’ll find something he’ll genuinely enjoy and know exactly what to order at bars forever. For me, it’s like watching a car wreck in slow motion. I carefully study his face, looking for a sign, the slightest hint of a smile that indicates he’s pleased, satisfied, or at least indifferent. But, every time, this venture ends the same. Tom’s face tightens with disgust, his eyes squint, his tongue hangs limp from his defeated mouth.

Tom drinks Bud Lime and Coronas. I drink Tom’s cocktail leftovers. Once in a while, I’ll mix up something exceptionally light and he’ll happily accept a glass, knowing he’ll never be able to bring himself to ask for an amaretto sour or a dark and stormy (hold the stormy) in a bar. Poor Tom.

I decided to start doing some research. I had to understand why Tom didn’t enjoy the same drinks I found so delicious.

Does Alcohol Actually Taste Good? (or are we all just addicts?)

a flowchart summary of the research that’s going to be discussed. this will all make sense if you make it to the bottom of this post. warning: it’s kind of long.

Humans have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. The earliest evidence we have dates back to the production of alcohol in China around 8000 B.C. And for as long as we’ve made it, we’ve treasured it. Pottery fragments left by Neolithic settlements living in modern-day Georgia around 6000 B.C. reveal images of celebration associated with alcoholic beverages.

Of course, early fermented wines and beers were relatively low alcohol. Some societies may have used alcohol production more as a means of preservation than for alcohol’s inhibition-reducing effects. In fact, we didn’t know how to distill alcohol to stronger strengths until 1200 A.D.

For more on the history of booze, see Drink: a Cultural History

A few thousand years is far too little time to evolve any sort of biological preference for alcohol, but we humans are very good at passing along our taste aversions and preferences through cultural and other unconscious cues. So what if the only reason I think alcohol tastes good is because people enjoy getting drunk and somehow that drug reliance has translated into a taste preference for ethanol? Would cocktails taste better if they were all virgin?

Some of the most telling research I found on the taste of alcohol came from the Department of Otolaryngology (the study of the ear, nose, and throat) at Warsaw Medical University in Poland. In 2000, Dr. Anna Scinska and five of her colleagues performed an experiment that, so far as I can tell, is the most definitive exploration of how people experience the flavor of alcohol available.

Dr. Scinska recruited 20 volunteers to taste small squirts of various concentrations of ethanol, sugar sucrose syrup, citric acid, saline, and quinine, a bittering agent. Perception of ethanol’s taste was in question. The other solutions were meant to represent the tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter – the four basic tastes the tongue can experience (MSG is a fifth, but is less explored). The results were intriguing. Every single test subject said that ethanol is bitter, even when it was present only as a 0.3% solution. The second most common taste descriptor, however, was that ethanol tasted sweet.

In the second part of Dr. Scinska’s experiment, the test subjects were invited back to compare ethanol to tastes, but this time they were asked to rate the taste similarity of ethanol to a combination of both quinine and sucrose. The results confirmed what had been observed during the first test. When subjects tasted a 10% ethanol solution, they found it tasted most similar to a 3% sucrose solution with just a little quinine (0.005%) mixed in.

From this research, it seemed clear that people find alcohol both bitter and sweet. Everyone appears to find alcohol bitter, but apparently not extremely bitter, regardless of concentration. People also thought alcohol was sweet, but once again, only slightly, regardless of concentration.

These revelations were fortifying for me. The research showed that alcohol delivers a complex mix of bitter and sweet. Even at cocktail concentrations, the flavors were described as “pleasant”. In fact, as I did more reading on the subject, I found that other animals (rats, elephants, birds included) seem to seek out naturally occurring alcohol for its sweet taste.

So why did Tom still hate cocktails? Going off the Scinska research, I thought maybe it might have something to do with the way he perceives bitterness. More research was needed.

It’s Not Tom’s Fault

In 2004, Sarah Lanier, a graduate of the dietetics program at the University of Connecticut, recruited 49 undergraduate students from the UConn population for an experiment. Lanier was working with Dr. Valerie B. Duffy, a professor at UConn who earlier that year had published a paper linking ethanol (the stuff that makes alcohol alcoholic) to a compound called 6-n-propylthiouracil, commonly known as PROP.

Here’s how Lanier’s experiment played out. Each of the 49 recruits sampled four different drinks: pilsner beer, blended scotch whiskey, instant espresso, and unsweetened grapefruit juice. They rated how bitter or sweet each drink tasted on two scales – intensity and whether they liked the taste. And that was it. The session must have been pretty easy for the college kids. They got free booze, a little coffee, and a few dollars for an hour of work.

But Lanier found some interesting results with this simple experiment. She collected two more important pieces of data about the students: (1) how much alcohol they consumed and (2) whether they were sensitive to PROP bitterness. People who are sensitive to PROP are known as “supertasters” because they find certain foods unbearably bitter. Most people are middle tasters, while some are “nontasters” – people who barely experience PROP bitterness at all. Lanier discovered that nontasters not only found bitter foods to taste less bitter, they also experienced sweet foods as sweeter. On the other end of the spectrum, supertasters found all bitter drinks to taste more bitter.

When Lanier linked people’s perception of sweet and bitter to their consumption of alcohol, she discovered something really unexpected. People who thought scotch tasted sweeter and less bitter drank more alcohol on average. In addition, this effect appeared regardless of whether people said they actually liked scotch or not. How the students experienced beer, however, did not seem to have any predictive value on total alcohol consumption. Instead, Lanier found simply that more men tended to say they “liked beer” and those that showed this preference tended to drink more.

The UConn experiment seems to show two things. First, some people experience hard alcohol as extremely bitter and they drink less alcohol of any type as a result, even if they say they like the taste of hard alcohol. Second, although people experience beer very differently as well, they seem much more able to overcome their taste aversion, probably as a result of social pressure.

Aha! Now I understood why Tom could stomach some light beers, but struggled with sweet cocktails. He had probably overcome the bitterness of beer through social pressure and acquired tolerance to aversion, but the whole point of a craft cocktail is to use different strong liquors in harmony. You want to taste the alcohol. But that taste was torture for Tom.

But What About the Burning Taste of Alcohol?

There was one more thing I had to look into before closing the book on the “why do some people hate the taste of alcohol” case. Many of the participants in Dr. Scinska’s 2000 study ascribed a sour taste to ethanol, but upon interview, described more of a “burning sensation”. The characteristic burn of alcohol is well-documented, but, I wondered, what impact did it have on taste perception?

I posed the question to the question and answer site Quora and after a few months got a well-researched, thorough response from a medical student named Jae Won Joh:

The answer is not simple, unfortunately, and it’s actually a bit difficult to pinpoint. Let’s go through some of the research I’ve been able to dig up. Skip the bulletpoints and just go for the intermittent summaries if you’re impatient.

  • In 1965, Hellekant discovered that cat gustatory fibers respond to ethanol by increasing their firing pattern[1]. These fibers were also responsive to water, acetic acid, quinine, and salt. In cat non-gustatory fibers, ethanol caused a direct increase in firing up to a certain concentration before causing paralysis[2]. This was one of the first studies looking into how ethanol affected taste nerves.
  • In 1999, Sako and Yamamoto showed in rats that you could induce aversion to alcohols, suggesting a possible burning/unpleasant sensation[3].
  • In 2002, Danilova and Hellekant duplicated Hellekant’s 1965 work in rhesus monkeys, showing that ethanol induces increases in firing in about half of lingual non-gustatory receptors. The taste fibers which respond to ethanol are also sensitive light touch and cooling. This suggested some sort of neuronal manipulation by ethanol, possibly with mechanoreceptors.
  • In 2002, Trevisani published a brilliant paper showing that ethanol actually potentiates TRPV-1, a heat-gated ion channel that is responsible for the burning sensation elicited by capsaicin. Ethanol potentiated the response of TRPV-1 to capsaicin, protons, and heat; lowering the threshold for heat activation from 42°C to 34°C. This provides a likely mechanistic explanation for the ethanol-induced sensory responses that occur at body temperature.

Layman’s summary up till 2002: we thought ethanol was just messing with nerves, but apparently there’s this special receptor that it wreaks hell on, and it just so happens to be the receptor for capsaicin, which causes the burning associated with spicy food. Innnnnteresting. Veeeeery interesting...

  • In 2004, it was found that ethanol actually activates a neural pathway reactive to sucrose[5]. That’s right: ethanol is, at least to a rat brain, not all that far off from sugar. Which, in an evolutionary sense, is not all too surprising, given that they’re both energy sources.
  • In 2004 and 2005, Lyall showed in a nice series of papers that TRPV-1 is in taste receptors[5], proving that they were definitely in the right location for stimulation. This is basically further confirmation of Trevisani’s work, I think.
  • In 2005, Simon and Araujo published a nice review of the data thus far[7]. Just thought I’d recognize their paper, it’s good.
  • In 2009, Blednov and Harris demonstrated that if you knocked out the TRPV-1 receptor in mice, they would show significantly greater consumption of ethanol than their normal counterparts. However, you could still induce aversion in both groups, and withdrawal symptoms weren’t different between the two[8].

Layman’s summary up till 2009: we know now about alcohol and capsaicin, but it’s apparent that alcohol has other taste pathways as well, possibly involving sweetness. It may even involve something else as well, given that you can still get a mouse to hate alcohol even if it doesn’t have the capsaicin receptor.”

Basically, what Joh summarized was that ethanol seems to trigger a pathway that is also responsible for the burning sensation you get from eating spicy foods and, importantly, that ethanol reduces the temperature at which the pain gets triggered.

I knew from previous research that there is only one way to build up a tolerance to spicy food: eat more spicy food. Perhaps sensitivity to alcohol works in a similar fashion?

How to Deal with Different Types of Drinkers

Everyone knows that flavor preferences vary greatly between people, but I had no idea ethanol could deliver such a complex range of pleasurable and unpleasurable flavors to different tasters. How one experiences alcohol depends on their genetics, social/cultural influences, and tolerance built up over time. Rather than go into all the takeaways, I’ve organized some advice for dealing with different types of drinkers.

and another flowchart, summarizing the types of drinkers, above. click the image for full-sized version.

For the beginning drinker

You have to be careful with the beginning drinkers because you have no idea whether they are a supertaster or not. Beginning drinkers are also the most prone to developing preferences for or aversions toward alcohol, so you want to make sure they don’t drink too much or have a negative experience – it could deal irreparable damage.

Test the waters – mix something they’re familiar with, like lemonade, and add half the alcohol you might add to a full drink. See if they appreciate how the alcohol adds complexity to the drink, or if they immediately pull away, cringing. Then you might have some idea what type of drinker they are and proceed from there.

For the Supertasting Social Drinker

For those individuals who are sensitive to PROP, the only way to make sure they enjoy their drink is to keep the abv relatively low. Highballs, swizzles, shrubs, and the like are classy and can be just as strong as an up drink, but are more diluted. Steps should also be taken to reduce the perceived bitterness of the drink. Avoid bitters and quinine if possible. Instead, emphasize sour and sweet flavors. Consider adding some salt, as salt can reduce the perception of bitterness (see here for an example). Experiment with complex flavors that are not alcohol-based, such as herbs and infused syrups.

For the Connoisseur

For a guest who’s a fan of fine scotches or whiskys, you’re probably safe to assume either they’re not a supertaster or they have acquired a powerful enough preference for alcohol that the bitterness doesn’t bother them anymore. Mixing drinks for people like this can be especially difficult because it can be hard to gauge how much tolerance they’ve developed in their TPRV-1 receptors. If ethanol works anything like capsaicin, what one person sees as a spicy, pleasant sip might appear to another as bland and pale. If at all possible, it might help to have the guest taste a simple blended scotch and describe it. If they find it bland and are looking for a complex drink, it may help to add bitters, quinine, or aperitifs to up the complexity.

For Nontasters

I somewhat suspect I am a nontaster. I love spicy, bitter cocktails and eat kale on a weekly basis (supertasters find many bitter vegetables overwhelming). It’s not a bad life, though sometimes I wonder whether I’ve missed out on taste experiences others with more sensitive taste receptors enjoy. This may be one reason I enjoy smoky cocktails (have you seen our DIY cold smoker?), carbonation, and cocktails with capsaicin mixed or infused in. Nontasters are easy to please, but tough to impress. I’ve found that simply using higher proof spirits doesn’t cut it; the harmony of other ingredients is thrown off. Challenge nontasters with new flavors. I remember once taking a shot of angostura bitters with John Gertsen of Drink. It was one of the strangest things I could imagine doing, but it was delicious. A shot of fernet, anyone?


What type of drinker are you?

About Kevin Liu

Kevin Liu is a hopeless food geek obsessed with bacon, kale, and cocktails (but not usually all at once). You can follow him at @kevinkliu. Kevin is an editor at Science Fare.


38 Responses to Why Some People Hate Drinking (and what you can do about it)

  1. Moopheus November 22, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    I came across this randomly looking for something else, but thought it was interesting. I don’t drink, but when I did I mainly preferred sweet mixed drinks. I’m a big coffee drinker, so Kahlua or something related was always good. I actually like rum flavor and will bake with liqueurs for flavoring. But I do not like wine and think beer is one step from pee. But the odd thing is that I will occasionally cook with wine. Cooking out the alcohol (and presumably breaking down some of the more fragile VOCs), diluting it, and mixing it with other stuff makes it okay. But I’ve never felt any inclination to “acquire” a taste for something that to me smells and tastes like it was squeezed out of some small woodland creature marking its territory.

    • Kevin Liu November 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

      @ Moopheus-

      I do think there is something else going on with beer that makes it nasty to some people. I’ve heard anecdotally, for instance, that women are more sensitive to bitter compounds than men are. I have no doubt there’s some interesting chemistry behind that claim, but I don’t know enough to comment intelligently.

      As far as wine, I’ve never been able to enjoy it as much as I enjoy beer. I like wine, but I crave the bitterness of beer. Luckily, it looks like both of us can agree on mixed drinks!

    • Sharon Bennett September 9, 2014 at 12:04 am #

      I have an interesting question for you. What about people who don’t like the EFFECT that alcohol has on you? That “drunken” or “tipsy” feeling?

      I can tolerate the taste (and if it’s a hard cider or a sweet mixed drink that disguises the taste of the alcohol, I can actually like the taste of it) but I have never liked how it makes me feel. It dulls my senses, makes it harder to think….. and just, doesn’t feel good.

      People say it helps them forget their problems, but I forget my problems (and everything else) when I watch a good TV show, movie, read a book, or play a video game. Others say it is a social lubricant that helps you loosen up. I’m a type B personality and I don’t need to be loosened up- if someone gave me a fake alcohol drink I could act just as crazy or free as someone who is drunk (and if everyone thought I was drunk it would be socially acceptable, even if it was in reality a fake drink). Point being, I don’t need to be uninhibited. I spent most of my childhood trying to figure out ways to NOT be uninhibited. So it’s easy for me to let go.

      Thus, I see no point in alcohol. If it vanished from the world, or never existed, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. Actually I see great benefit in that (no drunk driving, no drunks beating wives, etc). Actually if the government ever wanted to support prohibition again I’d be for it, simply because I see no point in alcohol, it does nothing for me, and I can’t understand why anyone would want to feel tipsy or drunk!

      This is not due to a moral stance at all. If I liked how it made me feel I’d say so. But not even counting the taste, I don’t like how it makes me feel. And actually, when I am out with friends, if everyone else is drinking I will have a glass of wine or beer or whatever too (I rather like the taste of wine just not how it makes me feel.). But I do it just for social reasons, because if I don’t drink people look at you kind of weird. I was once asked if I was an alcoholic when I said I didn’t want to drink anything! But in truth I just don’t like feeling drunk or tipsy.

      Am I the only one who feels this way? Has anyone else ever heard of someone like me?

      • Kevin Liu (@kevinkliu) September 9, 2014 at 8:32 am #

        Sharon, I think that’s a totally normal sentiment. There are plenty of people who don’t enjoy the effects of alcohol. There are even some who are dangerously allergic to it. With that being said, there are many people who do enjoy the effects of alcohol and report having better social or even professional interactions as a result of their use of alcohol.

        A good analogy is caffeine: many people get jittery, anxious, and unfocused when they use even a little caffeine. But other people are much more productive and lucid with a giant cup of coffee.

        Anyway, if you don’t like alcohol, you should always feel completely justified in asking for a nonalcoholic drink, and any bar or party host should happily accommodate you.

      • Sierra October 20, 2015 at 12:51 am #

        I don’t drink at parties because alcohol makes me sleepy. When I get sleepy the only thing I want is to sleep so a noisy party with people wanting me to play will only make me miserable. However, I do love a glass of wine when I am having trouble sleeping. If I wasn’t terrified of becoming an alcoholic (like my mother) I would have a glass every night. I know many people drink a glass a day, and maybe two a day, and don’t become alcoholics, but my experience growing up with an alcoholic makes me super cautious. My ramblings aside, I don’t agree that alcohol should ever be banned. Some people can drink without acting like morons, driving drunk, or being violent. Some people, like me, would just like to go to sleep…and yes, I know there are medications for that but I’ve tried all the over counter ones and they do not work. A doctors visit to get a good medicine would cost way more than a cheap bottle of wine. As far as being drunk though, I have never been drunk. I have drank 8 beers in just a couple hours before. I could still walk a straight line, talk like normal, say my ABCs backwards (which most people can’t even do sober)…the only change in me was that I was sleepy. My friends were the reason I did it. They didn’t believe me, I had to prove it! So, just because it inhibits you and makes you forget things doe snot mean everyone feels the same way. If you were allergic to peanuts would you say “ban peanuts”? Now, I myself could do without any wife beaters or car wrecks…but that is not the alcohols fault. People should learn to behave themselves and drink responsibly.

  2. Timothy Hayes December 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    I have been a ‘Picky Eater’ all my life. Some years ago my wife ran across an article about Supertasters and, sure enough, I am one. I did the blue food coloring test to confirm. I also had done the PROP test in 7th grade Biology and registered it as extremely bitter. At that time, though (34 years), the PROP test was just a cute test to show genetic diversity, not an actual connection to food preferences.

    My birthday is New Year’s Eve and I plan to drink. I will try to get the bartender to make my drinks a bit weak so as to cover up the alcohol taste.

    Thanks for all the great scientific information!

  3. Megan May 20, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    I have never been a picky eater; from a young age I have been willing to eat just about anything – spicy, salty, sour, you name it – though I’ve never been particularly fond of things like strong coffee or tea. However, I have recently begun to drink and found my weakness. I ABHOR the taste of alcohol.

    When I had my first “chocolate cake” shot that friends had often mentioned as “delicious” and tasting “just like the real thing,” I couldn’t taste anything beyond the bitterness of the alcohol; it certainly didn’t taste like chocolate!

    More recently, I ordered a glass of cheap-ish plum wine at a Japanese restaurant. While my friend loved it and described it as “so sweet,” it was one of the worst things I have ever tasted. I could barely detect the fruity flavor; instead, it was overwhelmingly medicinal and bitter. I left a nearly full glass at the table.

    This article gives me hope that I’m not just a “wimp,” and there might actually be a reason for my aversion.

    Thanks :)

  4. salahhe February 28, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    You mean people taste alcohol sweet? My whole life I have been wondering why the fuck would they drink that shit and the whole time it wasn’t really shit? The shit was only in my mouth? That is… wow.

  5. AW April 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Fabulous!! You have answered the question I have been wondering my entire adult life! Alcohol burns like hell and tastes horrible to me. I knew that my aversion to red wine was supertaster-based, but your details surrounding ethanol filled in the rest of the gap and explained why I prefer frou-frou drinks and learned to tolerate beer.

    Since I was able to acclimate my palate to some bitter tastes and to very spicy foods, I thought the same would be true with alcohol. However, the combination of burning and bitter seems to be too much to bear. The best part of not enjoying alcohol is the complete lack of embarrassing experiences due to drunken behavior.

  6. Ezra June 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Reading this article, you set a tone of pitty for those who are sensitive to PROP. I’ve always hated thtaste of alcohol and I see that as a blessing. I don’t mind drinking in moderation but I’ve seen friends and families torn apart due to access drinking. seeing the people u love with selfdestructive behavior tears u up inside. I think its Tom who is the normal one and everyone who gets buzzed killing brain cells need to be told “its not their fault” I’m by no means a hard core Christian I like to have a good time; in fact I’m an atheist. Although u say to be careful with newdrinkers I say the less people drinking the better.
    I do however appreciated the science behind why some people drink more or less. its the tone of this article that bothers me.

    • Kevin Liu June 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm #


      Great point. Thanks for bringing up this side of the issue. Most of the research on PROP and alcohol actually comes from academic journals studying alcohol and addiction. I wrote this article from my personal perspective. I have luckily never had a problem with alcohol addiction and I know from a food science point of view that ethanol makes available a world of flavors that would otherwise be inaccessible.

      But everyone has a different experience; we’re just happy to get the science out there so we can all learn something from each other!

  7. Joe June 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    So, while enjoying an ice cold basil bourbon sour on a mild Texas afternoon I stumbled upon this site in search of making “better” ice. You know what I mean, you wrote the article that dragged me in, the ice to impress. It really is all about the details. I must say though how impressed I am with the level of thought and detail that has been put into each and every one of these issues. Enough of hearing myself talk; you mentioned your friend “Tom” likes bud light lime, and I adore a bud light lime 60/40 with orange juice. Well adore is a strong word, but I can’t deal with the snooze factor of a mimosa. It is delish.

  8. Maya Posch September 7, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    Thank you for this article. For the first time I understand why I’m the only person in my family (and environment) who can not bear to drink alcoholic beverages. The only type of beverage I can stomach is alcohol-free light beers and ciders, with low-alcohol ciders drinkable but not enjoyable. Wine and such has never been an option for me.

    I must say that I also have an aversion to very sweet things, though, which may also be due to just tasting things very strongly?

    At any rate, thanks again for a very well-written and informative article :)

  9. Rhonda September 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Agreed. The “and what you can do about it” is to recognize that those who don’t like the taste of alcohol actually don’t like the taste and stop trying to push something unpleasant on us.

    It was very interesting to see alcohol, coffee, and grapefruit all tested for bitterness, because I find all three taste terrible. (Some oranges, too.) I hadn’t thought that they would be related.

  10. anonyme September 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I prefer drinking with guests, certainly never and I mean never alone. I don’t drink so much white wine because it’s often (but not always) too bitter. I can’t stand beer (exept for the Ceres Royal or Tuborg that I like to drink in good company of course).My favorite is Cognac but I almost never drink it (exept when we’re invited – Oh I’m french by the way^^). I hate vodka. I like rhum ! And to finish I like porto and cider. So what kind of drinker does that make me ? I don’t know I don’t like being completely drunk, so I would say I’m a careful- almost-picky drinker.

  11. Tom October 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    There’s an Australian comedian called Jim Jefferies who does this bit about how he hates non-drinkers: “Every one of them gives the same reason for it – I don’t like the taste of it. *Pause* NOBODY DOES! We drink coz we have to! Nobody drinks a shot of tequila and then goes – Ooh, that was LOVELY, I think I’ll have that instead of pudding.”
    And that made sense to me since I abhor the taste of alcohol but like being drunk. But asking around it does seem that the Aussie drunkard was way wrong, MANY people actually like the taste of that horrid ooze. To me, it tastes like a combination of cough medicine and getting water up my nose when swimming – OK, that’s not really a taste but it feels like that. I’ve tried different strategies for getting the ~80 grams of pure alcohol that I need to be drunk – drinking a whole bottle of wine – very slow but not too intensely horrible; drinking vodka mixed 50% with orange juice – causes vomiting reflexes but I can keep them down and it’s over quite quickly; or drink unmixed vodka – that’s just two glasses, but it makes me feel like going up to some aggressive looking people at the bar and asking them to beat me up just so I would have something else to think about than that HORRIBLE THING THAT’S EATING AWAY AT MY NECK!

  12. David Urry December 5, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    My whole life I’ve been wondering how people stand this stuff! Thanks Kevin!

  13. Aidan January 2, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    I have always been picky, but in recent years as I age alcohol has come into the equation. My friends all enjoyed alcohol, but I figured they were just more used to it, but just yesterday my family and I toasted in the new year with champagne. I was pretty sure just my parents would like it thanks to an extra thirty years of consumption, but my brother said it was delicious and tasted like juice while to me it tasted like rubbing alcohol and rat poison (theoretically, at least). Thank you for explaining this! I thought there was something wrong with me, and I guess technically there is, but now I know there’s a reason I absolutely can’t stand this stuff. So thanks!

  14. Claire Marvet January 10, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    Well, oops. I did not take it easy. Before a bad experience with tequila, of course, I didn’t mind the taste of alcohol. Now I can hardly stomach wine. I guess I should try to be a beer person. Maybe I just need more time for my tastebuds to forget?

  15. Kat May 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    Well this is interesting. I had never drank but suddenly saw myself in a social situation where I needed to. So I tried first at home with some sweet liquor, and after the first sip I was dying, the third sip was pure bitterness! I added a ton of sugar, milk, and some flavoured powder to the remaining sip but it was impossible to drink it.
    Now I finally got an answer, and I’m glad because actually all my aunts are alcoholics, so I guess I never have to worry about that.
    As for the reunion, I think I’ll just mix a spoonful of alcohol with two liters or soda and I should be fine.
    Thanks for gathering that info!

  16. Tanner Littleton May 30, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    Why would you even want to help anybody acquire a taste for drinking?

  17. TREE June 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Thank you. for confirming what I knew about myself. Interestingly enough, I also think cilantro tastes like dirt or soap. that has been tracked to a gene. I wonder if they are related. However, it has been suggested for the big 50, I do shots. any suggestions that I might be able to stomach?

  18. Jaime August 22, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    What if I love cilantro on mexican food? What if I like coffee, all kinds; a coffee lover. And I dont find anything else bitter besides grapefruit? Yet I struggle to down an angry orchard hard cider? Whats this mean? I just havent grown into liking alcohol yet? Its horribly bitter and leaves an awful aftertaste which is the worst part.

  19. bwsmoney September 22, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    thank you for writing this, very helpful … I’ve for years suspected I am a supertaster, and I can definitely relate to Tom … it has always completely baffled me that people claim to actually enjoy alcohol

    • bwsmoney September 22, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      My wife actually hates the taste of alcohol as well. She also hates coffee, but likes tea (no sugar), grapefruit, and dark green veggies. I dislike all bitters … if I drink coffee, it’s with lots and lots of milk and sugar, sweet tea, and I gotta put a sweet dressing on my salad, or it’s nasty. So while we both genuinely dislike the flavor/taste of alcohol, I think it must be in a different way or for a different reason. Also, since it was brought up, we both like cilantro, FWIW.

  20. holly September 30, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    I don’t know how this effects me as didn’t seem to grasp the whole scientific explanation. I love alcohol i like spirits whisky rums cocktails liquors, but find i can’t stand beer cider wine or champagne, it all has a similar taste and smell, when drinking taste like putting your fingers in your mouth after playing 2p machines at arcades i have tried everything with favouring so i can bare it but still can’t stand it i go pale and feel like im going to be sick for next few hours while my stomach settles. i know people ask y do i try, it is because i love the tipsy feeling i don’t get hangovers and don’t forget anythingthing and still yet to be physically sick, but my fave drinks cost so much yet the ones i can’t are so cheap and i know it takes 7units before any effects start to appear. its not fair, can u help me with my problem or for me to understand why i cannot drink it

  21. Nowhere Girl January 6, 2015 at 5:24 am #

    Really, but why should people try conditioning themselves to like alcohol? It is per se completely neutral, it’s like liking or disliking lettuce or mango. If no one reacts with astonishment to the fact that someone doesn’t like some kind of food, why should people who dislike alcohol be treated as freaks?
    Personally, I strongly dislike alcohol. I’m exactly the kind of person for whom any alcoholic beverage tastes unpleasant or horrible. Now I don’t even try it anymore, I have become a complete abstinent when it comes to alcohol. OK, with a single tiny exception – I actually like “malaga ice” – I don’t know how it’s called in the US, but in Poland “malaga ice” means ice cream with raisins and a touch of rum. It’s sweet enough to leave just a small hint of rum flavor and I’m cofident that one ball of malaga ice is completely safe from the psychoactive point of view. (And I definitely don’t want to be drunk, I believe alcohol is a stupefying drug. The only psychoactives I use are tea daily and psychedelics a few times a year… last year just a single trip. Btw, I started using them at the age of 30.) However, I don’t even drink champagne on special occasions. At my mother’s wedding (my father died over ten years ago, two years ago my mother remarried) I asked for water instead, for New Year’s Eve I specifically buy champagne for children which of course has no alcohol and doesn’t even try to mimic the taste of real champagne, it rather tastes like strongly carbonated (and fairly “artificial”) juice. So, altogether, I don’t think my dislike for alcohol is any kind of handicap. On the contrary – in our society it IS a form of no-conformism not to drink alcohol, so I’m proud to be an abstinent.

  22. Peter January 9, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    I’ve never liked any kind of alcohol. Wine and beer are disgusting. I went to France and we did a wine tasting, and while I was able to tell the difference between the wines, I did not enjoy them. I will have a glass of wine maybe once every couple of years when someone insists, but I rarely finish it. In my life I’ve probably consumed the equivalent of less than four beers. Plus, I’m hypoglycemic, and I’ve been noticing more often that I can feel even a sip of wine. So it’s probably not good for me.

    I don’t care much for coffee either (unless it’s mostly cream and sugar). They thought I was an odd specimen in France. Don’t like iced tea, even if it’s sweet. Hot tea can be fine once in a while, but I don’t crave it. Even plain club soda tastes off. Fruit juices and lemonade and stuff like that are yummy, but I tend to avoid them because of the sugar. People always have trouble comprehending that yes, I really do just want water. Water is all I drink (and the occasional glass of milk).

    But I am in no way a picky eater. I love most foods, including kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sharp and stinky cheeses, mushrooms, olives, sauerkraut, cilantro, and even the occasional grapefruit. I’ve learned to love dark chocolate. So I wonder if I really am a supertaster… I never thought so.

  23. Coxswain Mom April 30, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    It’s thoughtful that you want to please your friends and guests, but WHY do they have to drink alcohol at all ?!?!?! I grew up with an alcoholic parent and had to hide that stigma until the long term effects of alcohol finally killed her. So, maybe some of us are dealing with that trauma and it’s just easier to say, “no thanks, I don’t like the taste”.
    I will occassionally have a glass of wine or even a beer, but it’s not necessary and I have just a good time at social functions without drinking. My son is on a youth rowing team and I am sick and tired of a group of parents who drink excessively. We can’t go to dinner, have a social function or go to an out of town event without these people getting hammered. I don’t like being around adults who act loud, stupid and obnoxious. Grow up. Learn to drink responsibily or stay home.

  24. BloomWorld July 3, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    If we go as per chemical nature, water do not have any taste. It is the added minerals and chemicals that gives taste to the water. If you taste distilled water of ultra pure water then you will find that you are not able to have any taste on your tongue because the distilled water is the pure H2O.

  25. Miss Andi October 17, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

    I hate the taste of alcohol, spicy food, and water. I’ve tried different types of alcohol but they’re all yucky to me. I don’t have a problem with others drinking however it really bothers me when people are really drunk. I’d really like to know why it bothers me so much because I have to leave the room when my boyfriend is really drunk and I feel bad but I just can’t deal with it.

  26. jay November 30, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    It doesn’t matter, you have to drink in our culture, whether you like it or not. And if you don’t, you cannot ever admit this because EVERYONE LOVES TO GET DRUNK DIDNT YOU KNOW? It’s a way of life for the average person! Tom probably hates beer. But it’s the cheapest and easiest thing to nurse covertly when you’re forced to drink in front of others because of social pressure. I have hated alcohol all my life and it’s made me observe how boring and lacking in personality most drinkers really are.

  27. Xuan Zheng December 1, 2015 at 2:55 am #

    I have been pondering all these years why I am such a social outcast until read this article which explains all. I hate coffee, tea, cigarettes, and absolutely alcohol coz they all taste like the worst medicine to me. This had made me a really odd person at social gathering viz. “Want a shot of whine?” “No thanks” “oh then there’s some coffee at the coffee maker” “errrr, I don’t really drink coffee” “well help yoursel with some earl black tea” “………I think I will grab myself a coke” host–facepalm


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