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?
Primates and especially the great apes are as a whole fruit eaters (frugivores), which may be due to the inability to produce vitamin C edongenously. The fruit that is preferred is what we refer to as ripe to over ripe. the distinction between ripe and over ripe is arbitrary but refers to the level of decay the fruit is in and the level of ethanol that is contained in the fruit. Given that several fruits could be consumed on one feeding, the blood alcohol levels would of risen to a level that these animals could of have a pleasurable sensation of drunkenness.
Ethanol is also a very volatile substance with a distinct smell to primates ( http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/content/44/4/315.full ). The smell could be easily sensed and leading primates to a food source. Thereby it is an evolutionary consequence that humans have an attraction to alcohol.