“What if I don’t like the taste of alcohol?”

I’m a frequent reader and slightly less frequent poster over at r/cocktails on Reddit and this is a question that I see much too often.  Other posters clearly have a little more patience than I, to answer those every week, but my own response isn’t a cocktail… it’s a conversation.

First of all, there are a lot of aspects to come at this from.  In my opinion, most people don’t really like the ‘flavor’ of alcohol.  Take a sip of vodka straight and that’s the flavor of alcohol.  Vodka is essentially pure ethanol… that’s the part that gets you drunk.  Every other aspect of the alcohol industry (flavoring, aging, complex mash bills, different distillation methods etc..) is about making alcohol taste good.  Gin shouldn’t taste like alcohol, it should taste like juniper and lemon and anise and flowers.  Whiskey shouldn’t taste like alcohol, it should taste like oak and vanilla and caramel and spice.  The flavored alcohol industry gets some pretty hard knocks, and not without reason, but at it’s most basic that is what we’re doing most of the time… so when you say you don’t like the flavor of alcohol well… welcome to the club.

The most simple remedy for this problem is to stop drinking cheap alcohol, which has a significantly more pungent ‘alcoholic’ flavor.  From my observation its usually younger crowds that use this sentence and there’s two reasons for that.  1. It takes time to get used to the flavor of alcohol and taste past it to the more nuanced elements and 2. younger people buy cheaper alcohol.  Now, I don’t recommend prolific drinking all at once until you force yourself to be accustomed to alcohol… it’s a great way to make people think you’re an alcoholic.  So in my opinion the next best way to improve your drinking experience is to buy better alcohol, or at least more ‘beginner’ alcohol.  Sub your Tanqueray for Hendricks if you want to try gin.  Yeah, they are different styles, but Hendricks is much more likely to be drinkable by a beginner.  If you’re improving your whiskey knowledge try subbing your Jack Daniels for Crown Royal.  Again, different styles but I think beginners find Crown much easier to drink.  Vodka… trade Smirnoff for deep eddy or grey goose.  These are some very very common substitutions that will make a big difference in your home bar and your drinking experience.  The ones listed here are by no means the best in their class, so if you really want to step up the game, head on over to your local Total Wine & More (if you have it, their staff is usually very knowledgeable in my experience) or one of the many alcohol related subreddits are fine fodder for fulfilling your fancy.  Gin. Vodka. Rum. Whiskey.  Or just navigate and explore yourself.  It’s worth it to spend some time before you ask questions.  If you don’t, you kind of look like a tool who doesn’t know how to google.

Now, down to the answer that people actually want when they say they “Don’t like alcohol” and what should they drink… usually, the easier answer is the bastardizations of classic cocktails.  A frozen strawberry daquari or margarita or maybe a pina colada.  On our menu we have a drink called the Strawberry Smash: Vodka, strawberry puree, lemon, mint and crushed ice.  You can’t tell there is alcohol at all, so many people gravitate towards that.  There is one on every menu and if you go to any restaurant or cocktail bar they can point you right towards it.  I’m of a different opinion though… these drinks usually manage to not taste like alcohol by dumping a ton of sugar on top of it so you don’t taste it.  Not only does that suck if you are counting calories or trying to be healthier (Seriously, its like a 300 calorie drink that’s nothing but sugar and poison) but it’s also a really slap-dash answer to your problem.

Again, my answer is to spend more.  Spend more money, spend more time, spend more effort.  Get higher quality cocktails and appreciate them for the nuanced flavors that they bring to the table.  Tiki drinks are a good way to get started.  Classic cocktails like a whiskey sour or true daquari or any number of incredible concoctions happening in bars across the globe right now.  In fact, if you have any interest in cocktails or becoming a better class of drinker, I strongly recommend finding yourself a really good local bar and working your way through the official IBA cocktail list.  I myself have not even worked through this entire list yet… maybe I’ll make it a new years resolution? By the time you complete such a list, drinking all as intended and doing even the most minor of information intake, you will find yourself a much more educated drinker by the end of it… Or you can just keep dumping sugar on top of alcohol.  Whatever you prefer.


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Published by Spirit Sirens

Head Mixologist and Class Coordinator at Lucidi Distilling Co. in Old Town Peoria, Arizona. In my free time I eat good foods, drink good drinks and make mead with my brother. Soon to be on YouTube with Lucidi Distilling Co. making drinks and talking history and under Spirit Sirens, where myself and my partner Mariah talk about women in the alcohol industry and our experiences!

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