March 20, 2014
Texans Turn To A New Kind Of Spirit – Salty Vodkas
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
When you think of Texans and their drinks, you probably think of local beers. However, Texas has a new, fast growing beverage industry that would appeal to even James Bond. Distilleries across the state are producing around 17 different vodkas.
Researchers from the University of North Texas (UNT) presented the results of their study, "Shaken not stirred, y'all: A comparison of select Texas vodkas," at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Their findings, based on group tastings on the vodkas, revealed that Texans like their vodka a bit salty. A few surprises about the state's alcoholic beverage market were revealed as well.
"The Texas vodka industry is just exploding," said Diana Mason, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the work. "Two years ago when we started the study, there were only six vodkas in Texas. Now there are 17 and counting. And Texans are supposed to be beer drinkers!"
Texans aren't just expanding their palates to vodka, either.
"Right now, there are more than 25 distilleries in the state of Texas, which actually produce a lot of vibrant and diverse alcoholic spirits, including vodka," said Timothy W. Stephens, a graduate student at UNT who worked with Mason to conduct the study. "The list is expanding to include the production of rum, gin, whiskey, bourbon, flavored liqueurs and even agave spirits similar to tequila."
The researchers recruited 50 men and women to sample multiple, small shots of the state's vodkas – presented in test tubes. Because the study used the "swish and spit" technique popular in wine tastings, each participant consumed, at most, an ounce of vodka. Mason said that she was surprised by the results. Among the tasters, the two most popular brands were those with the most dissolved salts, which are detected by the tongue as are other tastes such as sweet and sour.
According to Stephens, the dissolved salts in the vodka are the factor that affected the people's taste buds. The team checked for conductivity, color, acidity, cost and density of the vodkas. It turned out that conductivity (which was a test the researchers used to detect the salts) was the only factor that separated the participants' favorite brands from the rest. He noted that even the source of the vodka — corn, wheat, rye, barley, potato, berries and cactus — didn't affect peoples' preferences.
Further research for the team will include conducting further taste tests on Texas-made bourbons, whiskeys, gins and rums.