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Shaken, and Not Stirred But What About the Clathrates? [differences in vodkas explored]
University of Cincinnati ^ | 6/14/2010 | Dale W. Schaefer

Posted on 06/15/2010 7:34:10 AM PDT by Pharmboy

A UC researcher proposes that taste is in the tongue of the beholder when it comes to vodka.

Photos By: Ashley Kempher, photojournalist; video by Jay Yocis

University of Cincinnati Professor Dale W. Schaefer, in the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department of UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, is part of an international team of scientists studying to see if there is a scientific way to measure structure in vodkas. UC collaborated with scientists from Moscow State University.

Since vodkas are 60 percent pure water and 40 percent pure ethanol (ethyl alcohol), many people conclude that vodkas are uniformly tasteless. As reported recently in the "Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry," the researchers found that vodkas differ in their physical structure, which could lead to perceptible differences in taste.

One vodka martini, please, with an extra shot of clathrates.

“Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling proposed that the narcotic effect might be due to the formation of crystals called ‘clathrate hydrates’ in the brain. I think that idea is wrong, but we propose a cage-like hydrogen-bonded structure, which is a liquid analogue of a clathrate,” says Schaefer. “Water alcohol mixtures are known to form clathrate hydrates below -80 degrees C, which is why we proposed a transient cage-like structure in the liquid at room temperature.”

Schaefer posited that the structures were responsible for variation in taste. The team then tested five vodkas: Skyy, Belvedere, Stolichnaya, Grey Goose and Oval. They found that vodkas differ in the prevalence of the cage-like structure. Computer simulations by Schaefer's group show that trace impurities control the structure.

Still, Schaefer says that it takes a discerning taste to distinguish between vodkas.

“It is likely that less than 50 percent of the population can distinguish one vodka from another,” he says. “Our findings could only apply to the 50 percent who can distinguish. As Walter Lippman said, ‘The music means nothing if the audience is deaf.’ Some even claim there is a genetic component to alcohol perception."

The next step is to test the hypothesis in the paper by testing subjects with the ability to distinguish brands in blind taste tests. At present there is no more funding for the project now.

“So until we get more funding, we are no longer players,” says Schaefer.

Much of the analysis was done by two post-docs: Dan Wu, now at Dow AgriChemicals, and Naiping Hu, who is still in Schaefer’s group. Master’s student Kelly Cross also worked on the project.

The Moscow team was led by Svetlana Patsaeva, whose father was Viktor Patsayev, a Soviet cosmonaut who was killed in the Soyuz 11 disaster.

By the way, Ian Fleming’s James Bond had another preference: he always preferred Russian or Polish vodkas if they were available. Schaefer’s researchers would be happy to know that.


TOPICS: Food; Science
KEYWORDS: alcohol; cocktails; jpb; vodka
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Nice to see the Bearcats doing some worthwhile research...I, for one, only drink gin martinis, as vodka makes me mean. Never drink it...
1 posted on 06/15/2010 7:34:10 AM PDT by Pharmboy
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To: neverdem; thefactor; SunkenCiv; Coleus; aculeus

Clink ping...


2 posted on 06/15/2010 7:35:06 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy

During my years of ‘research’, I determined that the cheapsest vodka worked just as well as the most expensive in every way, including taste-wise...Sure would like to get reimbursed for all those experiment expenses...


3 posted on 06/15/2010 7:40:58 AM PDT by ArtDodger (Reread Animal Farm (with your kids))
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To: ArtDodger
Well, controlled research tends to bear yours out. A few years ago (as reported in the Wall St Journal) a fancy brand (I think it was Grey Goose, but might have been Ketel One) held a vodka tasting in NYC. They were quite embarrassed when the generic got as many votes as theirs.

It's all marketing...

4 posted on 06/15/2010 7:44:27 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy


5 posted on 06/15/2010 7:47:07 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet)
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To: ArtDodger
I determined that the cheapsest vodka worked just as well as the most expensive in every way, including taste-wise..

I agree to a point...Everything from Smirnoff on up is just about the same but the cheap vodkas taste awful.

6 posted on 06/15/2010 7:48:43 AM PDT by Malsua
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To: JoeProBono

Thanks, Joe, there’s no one better than you at finding relevant, funny and/or obscure graphics for our threads.


7 posted on 06/15/2010 7:49:58 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Pharmboy
Stoli is my first choice. Then Kettle or Goose.

Absolut makes me gag, absolutely.

8 posted on 06/15/2010 7:54:03 AM PDT by thefactor (yes, as a matter of fact, i DID only read the excerpt)
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To: Pharmboy

I maintain that there is by definition no such thing as a “vodka martini.” That is like ordering a whiskey sour and telling the bartender to substitute rum for bourbon.

It cannot be done.


9 posted on 06/15/2010 7:57:38 AM PDT by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: Pharmboy

bookmark


10 posted on 06/15/2010 7:59:44 AM PDT by Artemis Webb (DeMint 2012)
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To: ArtDodger

During my years of ‘research’, I determined that the cheapsest vodka worked just as well as the most expensive in every way, including taste-wise...Sure would like to get reimbursed for all those experiment expenses...

<><><><><><

I am continuing the research, and have determined that the cheap stuff tears my stomach up where the better brands do not.


11 posted on 06/15/2010 8:00:54 AM PDT by dmz
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To: Malsua
I must be weird because i can definitely taste the difference in Skyy, Grey Goose, Ketel One, Smirnoff and some other vodkas, well at least for the first couple of martinis. I prefer Tito's, Dripping Springs, and Absolute because they have the least taste, which makes no sense I guess, especially since I also drink Scotch which is all about variations in taste. BTW Bond asked for his Martinis to be shaken not stirred because stirred was the accepted way of making Martinis until he changed that. The vodka is supposed to be clear as water, and taste like water IMHO but be very cold. That's why a martini glass has a long stem like a Chablis glass to keep the heat from your hand away from the vodka.
12 posted on 06/15/2010 8:08:29 AM PDT by dblshot (Insanity - electing the same people over and over and expecting different results.)
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To: dmz; ArtDodger
Our own little taste test between Grey Goose, Absolut, and the cheap brand Svedka, proved the following:

Most thought Absolut was the cheap brand (It really is a horrid Vodka), and Svedka was found to have the smoothest taste and was mistaken by most to be Grey Goose.

Since then, I keep a bottle of Svedka in the cabinet. It's $15 for a large bottle compared to the price of Goose and people thought it tasted better or at least as good as Goose.

I was a bartender for 7 years in a previous life. So I have a bit of experience to go on here..

13 posted on 06/15/2010 8:11:30 AM PDT by lovecraft (Specialization is for insects.)
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To: abb

Ha...you won’t get any argument from ME, friend. Of all my friends, there’s only two who drink the real thing, and I have told the rest that vodka is not part of a martini. It’s chilled vodka, straight up, or with some dry vermouth.


14 posted on 06/15/2010 8:11:42 AM PDT by Pharmboy (The Stone Age did not end because they ran out of stones...)
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To: Malsua
but the cheap vodkas taste awful

When I was in college, we'd occasionally, erm, "liberate" new charcoal water filters from the lab.

Then, we'd run the super cheap vodka (Orloff? Fleishmann's? I remember that it was $2.99/liter) through the filters a few times to remove the impurities. End product actually wound up tasting pretty good. Of course, I also would get bombed on 40-below Apple Bounce, and Milwaukee's Best, so it's not like I had much of a refined palette.

I'd imagine that you could do the same with cheap vodka and a Brita filter, nowadays.

15 posted on 06/15/2010 8:15:22 AM PDT by wbill
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To: dblshot

Martinis should be stirred, not shaken, because shaking introduces oxygen into the gin, and the oxygen reacts with some of the botanicals to produce a bitter or sour taste, “bruising” the gin.


16 posted on 06/15/2010 8:46:57 AM PDT by VanShuyten ("a shadow...draped nobly in the folds of a gorgeous eloquence.")
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To: lovecraft

I gave up beer (mostly) for vodka a few years back. Bounced around the brands, until I encountered Svedka. Great price point, and it doesn’t make me hurt the way the real cheap stuff does.

Haven’t bought anything else since.


17 posted on 06/15/2010 8:55:33 AM PDT by dmz
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To: Pharmboy

To be absolutely correct, I don’t drink the classic martini with an approximate 3:1 gin/vermouth ratio.

Mine is more properly called a “Montgomery,” with a 15:1 ratio. It is so named for Monty’s preferred ratio of his troop strength vs his opponent, prior to battle.


18 posted on 06/15/2010 8:56:00 AM PDT by abb ("What ISN'T in the news is often more important than what IS." Ed Biersmith, 1942 -)
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To: lovecraft

When my wife wants the occasional Smith & Wesson (the drink, not the weapon), we use Monarch vodka. When doing a drink like an S&W, the cheap ($5.95 a bottle) Monarch has no discernible difference from a more expensive brand.

Last night, my dad told us about a ‘double-chocolate’ flavored vodka from a company called called Vodka360. They also make a cola-flavored vodka. The idea SOUNDS good, but the website touts the company as being ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’. I’m not sure I’d want to give my money to such an obviously liberal company.


19 posted on 06/15/2010 8:57:14 AM PDT by hoagy62 (.)
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To: Pharmboy
Gin for martinis for me, too. (I regard calling anything other than gin and dry vermouth with an olive or a twist of lemon a "martini" as an abominable abuse of language.)

But, vodka doesn't make me mean, and I can tell the difference between vodkas--served as they should be, straight, ice cold. For years my freezer was graced with a bottle of kosher Polish vodka made in Łódź, a gift from some Polish mathematical physicists who attended a conference I organized. Really good vodka! A Russian colleague had some at a department party I held at my house before the bottle was finally finished. His eyes got big, and he exclaimed "That's good!!!"

20 posted on 06/15/2010 8:57:20 AM PDT by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know. . .)
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