Did you know that there is a scientific way to match music to the flavours of drinks? Professor Charles Spence from the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, University of Oxford tunes in to tell us more
“The world of cocktails is so much fun, in part, because people are more willing to be playful and to be surprised by the contents of a cocktail glass than they are by the food on a plate. Just think, for example, of the incongruent colouring of the orange-flavoured cocktail ingredient, blue Curaçao. In fact, it’s surprising that it’s taken molecular mixologists as long as it has to follow in the path of the molecular gastronomists, in terms of their enthusiasm for innovation and their desire to deconstruct and then to recreate dishes/drinks in wholly new ways. But from the evidence that I have seen recently, the mixologists are catching up fast.
Here at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, based at Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology, we are currently particularly interested in studying the ways in which what a drinker or diner hears can change their behaviour toward, not to mention perception of, food and drink. We work extensively with Condiment Junkie, a London-based sonic design/branding agency. While previously, we collaborated on ‘The Sound of the Sea’ seafood dish served at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, we have now started to turn our attention to the design of soundscapes to bring out the taste/flavour of cocktails.
One hears anecdotally that listening to loud German techno music brings out the alcohol in a drink. While German techno might not be everyone’s preferred soundtrack to accompany a particular cocktail, we have recently demonstrated that there is actually a scientific way to match music and soundscapes to the tastes and flavours of drinks such as wine, coffee, and beer. For although it might sound bizarre, it turns out that most people will match sweetness in a beverage, and red fruit flavours (e.g., raspberry, strawberry) with high-pitched notes, and if you ask them to pick an instrument, more likely than not they will choose the sound of a piano. By contrast, most people associate the bitter tastes of coffee and dark chocolate with low-pitched and brassy notes. Knowing this, one can start to choose particular pieces of music, or, if you happen to be Condiment Junkie, create specific soundscapes to ‘synaesthetically’ match one or other of the competing tastes or flavours in a cocktail. Indeed, this is precisely what we did at a recent masterclass at 69 Colebrooke Row.”
Taken from issue 6 of The Cocktail Lovers Magazine. To read the full feature, sign in here.