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?

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I think that, while we realize that alcohol in its purest form is poison, we can condition ourselves, mentally as well as physically, to tolerate and even appreciate certain beverages.

 

Take Guiness, for example.  Thick, dark, with a definite aftertaste that lingers (and lingers. And lingers).  When first I tried it, I was appalled.  Who in their right mind would willingly pour this stuff down their throat?  But after a five day stay in Dublin (where, I am told, I thouroughly enjoyed myself) I learned to enjoy the Black Brew to the point where it is now my beverage of choice.

 

But always in moderation.  As I age, the recovery periods are becoming far to long. :)

Liquor, yes. Malt/barley/hop type beverages and grape based beverages, I'm not so sure. It's true that the poison elements in the liquids would put us off, but based on your thought experiment, the poison element wouldn't be present in the alcohol to begin with. So that leaves only the taste of the beverage.

I've found the variety among the beer type drinks to be almost mind-boggling. Some of these I've found to be downright disgusting (Corona, Hoegarden). Others I've found genuinely tasty or at least a flavor adventure (Smokebeer, Vanilla Porter).

A similar question could be asked about many things we consume. Take soft drinks, for example. Many soft drinks actually contain phosphoric acid. This article, http://www.naturalnews.com/021774.html, contains a discussion on whether or not battery acid is worse for your teeth than the acid contained in the soda. One must assume that if there's a question about it, some doubt about the safety of it exists. So, why would someone put that in their mouth -- is it that the soft drink taste is THAT good?

I think also at least a nod must be made toward the idea of differing tastes. I still believe onions are the most disgusting vegetable ever, though I know people who swear that foods are not complete without them. There are, however, a number of foods that I have learned, after years of trial and error, to tolerate and even like. It seems inconceivable to me that out of the billions of people on this planet, should the physiological effects of alcohol were never present, many would still enjoy it, albeit at a much diminished population.

RE: variety among beer types -

I bought some beer for a party, and not being a connoisseur, got some off-brand "home crafted" beers from my membership club...( you know, everything in sizes larger than you need or want). I would happily drink a Corona over this swill. The beer drinkers in my family stopped drinking after one. There is definitely a difference between good and lousy brews.

I don't drink much and I don't get drunk like I did when I was in the Navy but I will say that on the occasions I do have one or two drinks I would order something else if it didn't have the effect it did. Why would I bother?

Never had a beer that made me want to have more, BUT, living in Texas there's nothing like sipping a cold margarita by the pool or with a Tex-Mex meal.  I've tried to make non-alcoholic slushies to drink by the pool, but the low freezing temperature of alcohol makes it an essential ingredient. Basically a non-alcoholic slushie is snow.  Can you imagine drinking snow through a straw?  It doesn't work.

 

I'm not sure if this proves or disproves your point, but in the case of margaritas, I see this as a time I'd want the alcohol without the buzz that comes from drinking alcohol.  I doubt that the ability to drink non-alcoholic margaritas would add to survival of the fittest.

I think that alcohol is so widly used despite all the health risks because it is one of the only commercially legal forms of mind alteration, same goes with tobacco.  Personally, (I hate to sound like a stoner but...) if weed were legal, I would never touch another drop of booze or whiff of tobacco.  Pot is much safer and deals so much less damage that the legal alternatives.  And people will always look for some sort of metal escape or break from the norm, our psyche often needs a break from the stress of life and just plain survival of life.  That is just my two cents though.

I'm not a huge beer person, but I genuinely like the taste of certain liquors or cocktails. And I'm perfectly capable of just having two or three shots and stopping before I get drunk or notice too much of an effect

Personally, no, I never found one that I truly liked. I could tolerate them, but that was about it. I always preferred drinks that didn't taste like alcoholic drinks, and I absolutely despised every beer I ever tried (and I tried many, because friends kept telling me that I just hadn't tried the right beer yet). I was always drinking to be social more than anything else. I have a high tolerance and don't get hangovers, thanks to generations of 'shine runners and alcoholics in the family tree, so I suppose it's good that I wasn't drinking for the effect.

My father has always allowed small children sips of whatever he's drinking, on the theory that the forbidden is more alluring than the known. I think it's telling that any time a small child accidentally picks up or is allowed a sip of an alcoholic drink, her expression is one of dismay or betrayal. "You gave me WHAT? You DRINK THIS??!!!"

Alcohol is an acquired taste, and there's little reason for most people to acquire it. I freely acknowledge, however, that I am biased against the stuff.

A few binges 30+ years ago (that's individual drunken episodes) turned me off alcohol altogether.  Wine? waste of good grape juice...spirits?  waste of grain...Beer?  I can stick my finger in my ear, lick the end and it tastes just like I had a beer. 

The dis-inhibiting effect worries me.  I say enough stupid things already, alcohol made me stupid(er)

 

Ralph

I love the taste of wine, Chardonnay in particular. Certainly many types of alcohol have to be fought through, and a taste acquired, to enjoy the specific benefits we seek from them, but the same can be said of coffee at first, and how many people end up loving the taste of that? Asparagus, onions, broccoli, all were disgusting to me at first taste, but I've learned to love them. Though these aren't "poison" to us, they were initially offensive, and still are to many people, so I think the idea of needing conditioning to learn to appreciate something is not necessarily a bad thing. Science continues to show that moderate alcohol intake can be beneficial, and humans have been drinking and enjoying inebriates for as long as we've been here, so who's to say alcohol isn't just another legitimate choice for sustenance?

broccoli, all were disgusting to me at first taste, but I've learned to love them. Though these aren't "poison" to us, they were initially offensive, and still are to many people,

 

What people are 'still offended' by broccoli? Please expand.

I won't say that I'm offended, but I've never liked the taste of broccoli florets at all. I don't see the point in drowning them in cheese to eat them (what's "healthy" about that?). The only way I eat broccoli is as "slaw," in a salad with other veggies, in pieces so small that I can't really discern the taste of it at all.

But I freely admit that I have the tastes of a spoiled 3-year-old.

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