The role of taste in alcohol preference, consumption and risk behavior

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(4):676-692. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1387759. Epub 2017 Nov 13.


Alcohol consumption is widespread, and high levels of use are associated with increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Thus, understanding the factors that influence alcohol intake is important for disease prevention and management. Additionally, elucidating the factors that associate with alcohol preference and intake in non-clinical populations allows for product development and optimisation opportunities for the alcoholic beverage industry. The literature on how taste (orosensation) influences alcohol behavior is critically appraised in this review. Ethanol, the compound common to all alcoholic beverages, is generally aversive as it primarily elicits bitterness and irritation when ingested. Individuals who experience orosensations (both taste and chemesthetic) more intensely tend to report lower liking and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Additionally, a preference for sweetness is likely associated with a paternal history of alcohol use disorders. However, conflicting findings in the literature are common and may be partially attributable to differences in the methods used to access orosensory responsiveness and taste phenotypes. We conclude that while taste is a key driver in alcohol preference, intake and use disorder, no single taste-related factor can adequately predict alcohol behaviour. Areas for further research and suggestions for improved methodological and analytical approaches are highlighted.

Keywords: PROP; ethanol; sensory properties; sweet-liking; taste phenotypes; thermal taste.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking* / adverse effects
  • Alcoholic Beverages / analysis*
  • Alcoholism / genetics
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Ethanol / analysis
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Taste / physiology*
  • Taste Perception / genetics
  • Temperature


  • Ethanol