Bitter and sweet components of ethanol taste in humans

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2000 Aug 1;60(2):199-206. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(99)00149-0.


This study examined taste descriptions elicited by ethanol and by other tastants in humans. All subjects described 10% ethanol as bitter and approximately 30% of the subjects described it as sweet and/or sour. Highly significant correlations were found between sweetness of some sucrose solutions (0.6-1%) and intensity of the taste of ethanol. In another experiment, quinine (bitter) solutions were rated as similar to 10% ethanol taste and this effect was potentiated by the addition of sucrose. In contrast, citric acid (sour) tended to decrease similarity ratings when added to the quinine solutions. Taken together, these findings suggest that: (1) in humans ethanol tastes both bitter and sweet; and (2) the relationship between sucrose and ethanol intakes previously found in animals and humans may result, at least partially, from similar taste responses elicited by sucrose and ethanol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sucrose / pharmacology*
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Taste / physiology


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol
  • Sucrose