WASHINGTON, June 7, 2010 Those social drinkers who order super-premium vodka in every martini or vodka-and-cranberry, and disdain that default "well" liquor. Are they just vodka snobs, who pay $60 for a bottle of a "tasteless" beverage that can't possibly taste much different than its $6 counterpart? Or is there really a scientific basis for the differences that drinkers claim to taste in America's favorite hard liquor?
Scientists are reporting the first identification of a chemical basis for people's preference for certain brands of vodka, which outsells rum, gin, whiskey, and tequila. They found that vodka differs from simple water-ethanol solutions in ways that could alter vodka's perceived taste. Their findings appear in the American Chemical Society (ACS) bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Dale Schaefer and colleagues, who conducted the study, note that vodka has a long-standing reputation as a colorless, tasteless solution of 40 percent pure ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, and 60 percent pure water. All such beverages should have the same faint or undetectable taste. But sales of premium vodka brands have surged in recent years. Schaefer's group at the University of Cincinnati worked with colleagues from Moscow State University in Russia to find an answer.
They knew that famed Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, noted for work on the Periodic Table of the Elements, made a key observation on alcohol solutions in his 1865 doctoral dissertation. Mendeleev believed that a solution of 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water would develop peculiar clusters of molecules, called hydrates. That solution became the global standard for vodka, which usually is sold as an 80-proof, or 40 percent alcohol, beverage.
A century later Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling speculated that the hydrate clusters might consist of an ethanol molecule sequestered by a hydrogen-bonded framework of water molecules.
|Contact: Michael Bernstein|
American Chemical Society