A discussion about this on another forum got me thinking. Hypothetically, if the physiological effects of alcohol were not present, would people still enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages? Surely yes, now that we've been conditioned to like it. But I wonder if we found a sample of people raised in a non-alcohol-philic society (assuming there is one), and presented them with a variety of alcoholic beverages, they would enjoy any of them. Whatever they decide, is it despite the taste of alcohol, or because of it?
My guess is they wouldn't enjoy it. Alcohol is poison to us (and most other organisms as far as I know), right? So it would be only natural for us to find the taste offensive.
But on the other hand, fermented beverages also last because of that very same reason. And many people unknowingly took advantage of that fact to preserve beverages - wine, beer, etc. So maybe over the millennia of surviving on alcohol, we (or certain populations) have grown a penchant for it?
I grew up in a very Fundamentalist home - no smoking, no dancing, no swearing, and definitely no alcohol. (My mom who is 88 has never drank any alcohol.) I tried to drink when I was in my early 20's but I never could stand the taste of beer, wine, or liquor. So now I just don't drink.
On the other hand, I didn't like the taste of coffee when I was growing up. I didn't start to drink it until our third baby was born. I needed something to keep me going after being up all night with bottle feeding and diaper changing. Now I really enjoy the smell and taste of a good cup of coffee.
Let me put this as plainly as possible. I don't like beer, wine, or distilled spirits because my society conditioned me to. I literally ENJOY these things. And, yes, they do taste good to me.
Also, while you did mention that alcohol is a poison (along with lima beans, kidney beans, nutmeg, almonds, stone fruits [peaches, cherries, plums, etc.], tomatoes, and potatoes)*, you didn't mention that it's addictive, another reason we like it.
You need to be a little more specific about the ability of alcohol to preserve. It has to be in a certain concentration. Beer and wine will spoil in no time exposed to contaminents in atmospheric air or a few fruit flies (aka wine flies or vinegar flies).
* source for list of poisonous foods.
It's often the case that the dose makes the poison.
Personally, I can't stand the taste of it. Every so often, I'll get some kind of bug up my ass and say, "What the hell, I think I'll pour myself some wine!" and, sure as I write this, I'll take a sip and viscerally shudder as I swallow it...
Can't explain it fully, but it most definitely feels caustic to my throat and I have to fight a gag reflex. I *USED* to say and hold to, "On a super hot day, there's nothing like a cold beer." but now, I say, "How'd you like to see me projectile vomit all over your sweaty t-shirt?"
Unsweetened tea or water for me from now on, please.
Well most alcohol, I don't. But I do really love the taste of vodka. It still needs to be mixed with something. But the combination of that with a coke is very refreshing and amazing to me. MMMmm hehe