Thursday 10 May 2012

The Science Of Taste: Salty and Sour

We continue on through the Science of Taste (inspired and sourced from Darcy O'Neil) to salty and sour.
You can see my little introduction to this mini-series along with the first of our taste groups, sweet, here. 

The body response here is primarily a recognition of essential minerals, namely sodium, potassium, and calcium. An excellent source of saltiness for a drink is soda water, as it almost always contains some level of these minerals.

Increasing the salty will
- Increase the sweet
- Decrease the sour
- Decrease the bitter.

A good example of the latter here is drinking bitters. I drink bitters all the time at home by throwing a few dashes in some soda, which makes it more palatable. I can't drink bitters by itself, and some of the most bitter bitters are just too much in water alone (which will still have the dilution), but the soda takes a bit of the edge off. (Plus, it's amazing for an upset stomach - try a few dashes of Angostura in some soda water next time you're having digestion issues.)
If your drink is too sour or bitter, an easy solution is to top with a little soda (drinking a Mojito without the soda, for example, is too sour). If your drink is too sweet, adding soda is probably not a good idea. The level of saltiness in soda is quite small, so this rule should be taken... yes... with a grain of salt. It's still good to consider in this grand scheme of taste-things.

Sourness is essentially the acidity of the solution, so adding a lot of citrus (citric acid) will make the drink sour. [On the subject of soda water, which is carbonic acid and therefore acidic, the minerals and therefore saltiness of the soda reduce the perceived sourness, making a more balanced taste in your mouth.]

Increasing the sour will
- Increase the salty
- Increase the bitter
- Decrease the sweet.
If your drink is too sweet, adding sour will balance it out. If your drink is too bitter, adding sour is not a good idea, and so on. Sour mainly comes from the use of citrus juice, and some types are more sour than others - lime is actually more acidic than lemon, with grapefruit and orange following afterwards. If you need some sour to really cut through a drink and other flavours, lime is the best option. There are a few good examples of this, such as The Last Word, which has both Maraschino and Green Chartreuse dominating the flavour profile, but using lime cuts through the sweetness of the liqueurs but also calms down both flavours more effectively than lemon or grapefruit would.

Also check out this post on Personality & Genetics
and this one on non-tongue factors
and this one on bitter and savory

[[ Photography by and ]]

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