LessWrong experience on Alcohol

post by Elo · 2015-04-17T01:19:56.216Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 133 comments

following on from this thread: 


User Algon asked:
I don't drink alcohol, but is it really all that? I just assumed that most people have alcoholic beverages for the 'buzz'/intoxication.


I related my experience:

I have come to the conclusion that I taste things differently to a large subset of the population. I have a very sweet tooth and am very sensitive to bitter flavours.

I don't eat olives, most alcohol only tastes like the alcoholic aftertaste (which apparently some people don't taste) - imagine the strongest burning taste of the purest alcohol you have tasted, some people never taste that, I taste it with nearly every alcoholic beverage. Beer is usually awfully bitter too.

The only wine I could ever bother to drink is desert wine (its very sweet) and only slowly. (or also a half shot of rum and maple syrup)

Having said all this - yes; some people love their alcoholic beverages for their flavours.


I am wondering what the sensory experience of other LW users is of alcohol.  Do you drink (if not why not?)?  Do you have specific preferences? Do you have a particular pallet for foods (probably relevant)?


I hypothesise a lower proportion of drinkers than the rest of the population.  (subject of course to cultural norms where you come from)


Edit: I will make another post in a week about taste preferences because (as we probably already know) human tastes vary. I did want to mention that I avoid spicy things except for sweet chilli which is not spicy at all.  And I don't drink coffee (because it tastes bad and I am always very awake and never need caffeine to wake me up). I am also quite sure I am a super-taster but wanted to not use that word for concern that the jargon might confuse people who don't yet know about it.

Thanks for all the responses!  This has been really interesting and exactly what I expected (number of posts)!  

In regards to experiences, I would mention that heavy drinking is linked with nearly every health problem you could think of and I am surprised we had a selection of several heavy drinkers (to those who are heavy drinkers I would suggest reading about the health implications and reconsidering the lifestyle, it sounds like most of you are not addicted).  about the heavy drinkers - I suspect that is not representative of average, but rather the people who feel they are outliers decided to mention their cases (of people who did not reply; there are probably none or very few heavy drinkers, whereas there are probably some who did not reply and are light drinkers or did not reply and don't drink).

I hope to reply to a bunch of the comments and should get to it in the next few days.

Thank you again!  Maybe this should be included on the next survey...

Edit 2: follow up post -http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/m3j/tally_of_lesswrong_experience_on_alcohol/


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comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-17T05:13:13.031Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am probably something close to an alcoholic. I rather not use the term but in this case it may be helpful. It started around 17 when I was ashamed about having no social life so I went to dance club, but then I ended not really talking to a lot of people there either, just trying to approach a few pretty girls. Of course booze a lubricant and very often when I did not feel like approaching I just stood there drinking. Quickly associated the idea "going out and getting entertained" with standing somewhere sipping a drink. My parents have always drunk, moderately, and they were okay with me moderate pillaging their booze, like at 19 years old about 2 glasses of wine a day. This made me feel elevated (I never drunk to drunkenness), bubbly, light, and I liked that. It felt good to back to videogames or whatever I was doing (usually videogames) in that state.

Prety quickly it grew on me into a daily habit. However what made me different from the typical AA type alcoholic is that I never drunk to drunkenness, just elevation. So there were no problems caused by it when I was 20 or 30. I could go through an alcoholism checklist, listing questions like any relationship problems (lol wut), any work problems (no) and so on, and nothing.

By 37 I started to see issues, being fat, some gut inflammation, bleeding hemorrhoids, it was better to stop. And by some weird magic (or rather, because not only men can be introverted) I managed to fall in love, get married, have a child, and I guess I need to be a better role model. Also, because now I need to live longer. Formerly I figured dying at 55 from liver failure would be okay as my parents would be dead by then and I owe nobody else to live, but now I owe my wife and daughter to live, so better take care.

Actually quite recently, around March I did a 30 day stop via using three methods, non-a beer, martial arts training and associating with my lower, impulsive self, shaping my higher self (superego or what) into an external voice I called The Boss. 30 days dry went down without many problems.

Then about two weeks ago I started again because I was in bed with cold/flu and I was thinking like, fucking hell, if I must be here being bored all day (I got tired of reading after reading 10 books, had no other ideas to do), I may at least be drunk! The cold/flu went away a few days ago and now I am considering stopping again, although it is a hard time to, my wife and daughter went to visit grandparents, so I am here in an empty prison like apartment during the evenings after work with nothing to do, just browse the web and get sloshed. Today evening would be martial arts, but I am a bit hung over, and angry at me about that, so yes, I think a second round of month-long or several months long stoppage is coming just about now, as it is stupid that I have at least one non-boring activity and it is interfering with it. If you suspect it is a sign of deeper problems, probably it is. It is largely the lack of passions, goals, so life feels very big and empty and hard to fill out. I think every parent and school tries to instill a do-your-duties-first value system into kids, and I guess it was simply too succesful for me, basically I unlearned how to want things personally, so ever after I felt empty when I had no duties or tasks imposed and had to choose what to do myself. This made life feel big and empty and sort of it felt normal to fill with some booze because all the adults I know was doing it. I think all my childhood and teenagerhood, I did not know any adults who had anything in their lives but work, home-family stuff, and some drinks. I guess it would have been useful to have role models who have hobbies or aspirations or goals or whatnot.

On to flavour: as I tended to drink cheap (not stupid enough to waste both my health and wallet), yes, most things like common beers or wines have a cheap booze burn taste. It is not too bad, the taste the day after, that is bad. Esp. if it was cheap red wine the day before. I think at some level my taste changed. Unlike my childhood, I no longer like chocolate and things like that, sweet stuff. Correction: during my 30 day dry spell I did. Just not together with alcohol, the simple acidic taste of cheap booze does not mix with that. I simply got used to that acidic taste.It does not mix well with sweets. I just ate normal homecooked food or simple things, bacon, sausage.

Replies from: SanguineEmpiricist
comment by SanguineEmpiricist · 2015-04-20T01:12:23.870Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are an acoholic isn't that more of a problem with impulsiveness and pointing to exec function deficits(if anything?). You can look into that. I would REALLY look into this if I were you.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-20T07:22:54.282Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't understand exactly, care to elaborate? My point was precisely to identify with the impulsive part of the self, and externalize the rational part as The Boss.

Also, alcoholic is probably too much of an umbrella term. People have different poor habits wrt alcohol. I have looked into the AA book and could not relate, for I was never really drunk. The AA book described people who would go being drunk literally for days which I could not relate to like at all - even at big parties, where everybody is sloshed, I kind of get angry at myself when my speech gets a bit slurred or my thoughts slowed, I don't like that. And that makes an usual alcoholic. I also find it weird that I very easily switch to non-A beer. Part of my bad habit is more about really liking beer than really liking alcohol and it is just too bad I did not discover this connection earlier. I have also starting to suspect that me usually feeling bored is a slight schizoid orientation. This could explain the liking to get tipsy but not drunk part, as the tipsy part tends to lift the boredom and makes it easy to find joy in small things. Like laugh at jokes.

Replies from: westward, Gram_Stone
comment by westward · 2015-04-23T19:42:13.327Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you could probably benefit from AA. At the very least you should consider quitting drinking all together.

Your posts are a little inconsistent (I don't get drunk vs I'm bored, let's get drunk! and I drink because I like the taste vs I drink crappy tasting cheap beer), but it sounds like you're pretty depressed and use alcohol to cope with that. I think you would benefit from quitting drinking entirely and I've found for myself that AA helps with that. The the only necessary requirement for AA membership is the desire to quit drinking.

A lot of the literature of AA was written 80 years ago and reflects a societal aspect of drinking that may not apply to you. The purpose of AA isn't to help a certain "type" of drunk, it's to support someone who doesn't want to drink anymore. There's certainly criticisms of the program, both in its effectiveness and it's religiousity. But I'm an atheist, drank from ages 17-39 but wasn't a "drunk" and I quit last summer and I've discovered a few things: -I am better at life when I don't drink. I am better at being a dad, a husband, a friend,etc. -I have to abstain completely...I cannot reliably control my drinking -I'm a lot happier when I go to AA meetings at least once a week -N/A beer sucks. It's no comparison!

In addition to the not drinking part (strongly correlated with happiness), AA has some of the elements that make religion correlate with happiness. There's ritual, fellowship, and shared experience.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-27T07:13:26.646Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of people benefit from AA, the issue with the costs, such as having to admit stuff you don't like to admit, making you feel bad and powerless and so on. A ritual, a fellowship of losers rubs me entirely the bad way. Perhaps it works for people who feel like they are amazing and need their ego cut down, but I far more often feel like a worthles POS so a fellowship that rubs precisely that in does not sound attractive. I have more than enough self-esteem problems, if anything, I need the opposite, a winner's fellowship (Toastmasters or our local martial arts club). If I saw no other ways I would pay that cost, but since a 30 days stoppage worked well, I think I can try longer ones, eventually a full one, without many problems. In fact the 3 weeks rule (there is a "folk knowleddge" saying it takes 3 weeks to ingrain or delete a habit, such as it took us 3 weeks to not smoke inside our flat to get to the point where doing it would feel positively weird) worked, after 3 weeks I did not even think of it, and only the frustration of the illness brought it back. From this experience, I can easily imagine being completely abstinent as a general rule, when things are good, and turning to drink when something bad happens, say on the average 3-5 weeks a year. That would not be a particularly unhealthy way to live?

Replies from: VoiceOfRa, westward
comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-04-28T05:59:17.906Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A lot of people benefit from AA, the issue with the costs, such as having to admit stuff you don't like to admit, making you feel bad and powerless and so on.

My understanding is that those "costs" are why it works, e.g., you aren't going to solve your problem without admitting to things you'd rather not admit to.

comment by westward · 2015-04-27T16:46:44.952Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wish you the best of luck in whatever technique you try to be happier.

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-04-29T20:33:08.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with westward that it sounds like you often drink to deal with depression, even if you have things to be happy about and are happy about them at times.

It's tough to notice; it's crazy what you can not notice. I was making a list of stressors in my life a few months ago so that I would be able to recognize them explicitly and take steps to reduce them if possible, and I came up with a lot of stuff, some that I crossed off because I couldn't do anything about it, and some that I took steps to alleviate. But something I noticed around the time that I was almost finished with the list was, I had completely missed my two biggest stressors. I couldn't do anything about them, but that wasn't the point; the point was to think of everything that was stressing me, and my brain outright censored the two things that would be most obvious to any outside observer.

Besides the sources being difficult to notice, there's also the feelings themselves. I always thought that being bored and weak-willed all of the time was the norm, that it was something you just had to deal with all of the time. I unintentionally tuned them out like so many chirping crickets. Then I took some steps that I remembered have been shown to reduce depression, like exercise, exposure to light (sunlight in my case), and thinking that that stuff would work (placebo effect), and I felt better, and things were easier, and I wasn't quite as bored. I imagine you felt something like that when you were doing your martial arts. If it's an option, maybe you could see a doctor, if you trust that; that way you don't have to do as much guesswork. I'm pretty sure I would if it were a financial option. I have a long family history of mental illness and substance abuse and it wouldn't surprise me if I could use some medication. I remember Kaj_Sotala saying that he started taking antidepressants somewhat recently and that they helped him and I think I also remember him making similar comments on how easy it is for depression to go unnoticed when it's been the status quo for so long. But I don't know you and I'm no doctor, so do what really feels right.

Also, maybe you'd like Jonah_Sinick's post Methods for treating depression, which is self-explanatory, and Alicorn's post Ureshiku Naritai, which is basically about getting happier, and see if those things make things easier, especially when you're tempted to drink.

comment by Nornagest · 2015-04-17T21:52:24.271Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I drink moderately, largely as a social lubricant. My preference leans toward dark beer, heavier red wines and some unoaked whites, gin, scotch, and the dryer end of the spectrum of dessert wines and cocktails, and I find all of the above quite tasty -- though I didn't always. Like a lot of people, I started out drinking in college, for effect and to signal maturity, and an appreciation for the flavors of alcoholic drinks only came after a fair amount of experience with them. Hard to say how much of that's acquiring taste and how much is the fact that you can't afford good booze on a college student's budget, but I expect both are involved.

Food-wise, I like hot, spicy and heavily umami flavors. I'm not sensitive to the bitter notes in coffee or brassica vegetables, though I do add a little sugar to the oversteeped coffee common to Starbucks and its imitators, and I don't have much of a sweet tooth. Wouldn't surprise me if this was linked to my taste in alcohol.

You may be a supertaster -- it'd fit your reported experience with food. The etiology isn't fully understood, but it's probably linked to the PAV/PAV variant of TAS2R38, which 23andMe maps. That doesn't seem to be the whole story, though; I'm PAV/PAV myself but I don't have the supertaster phenotype.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:45:19.853Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

edit in main post. Yes I am a supertaster but didn't want to confuse people with the jargon. Thanks!

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-17T04:58:54.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like alcohol of different types, considerably more for the taste/flavour than for the buzz. Usually I drink wine (red more than white) and beer (that is, beer, not Bud Light and such), but I also have periods when I regularly drink neat hard liquor (e.g. scotch or cognac). I rarely drink cocktails.

My tastes slowly change and my consumption of alcohol adjusts accordingly. Some months I would drink almost entirely wine, some -- mostly beer. With beer, for example, I started by liking sweetish doppelbocks and Belgian trippels, then went to porters and stouts, then to British-style ales with an occasional IPA, and currently I am back to porters and Scottish ales.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:02:28.333Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How old are you (approximately).

I can't taste anything nice in wine. it tastes like rotting grapes (probably because it is). I still try a sip of wine, hopeful that I might actually like it. but for all of the 50+ wines I have tried, they are unappealing.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T00:35:53.838Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you know the taste of rotting grapes? :-) I think your mind pre-decides what the taste should be.

Do you like acidic/sour things? Tannic things (like strong tea)? Sweetish things?

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T09:10:54.984Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know the tastes of glue, dog poop, or books. I assume I know what they taste like anyway. Yes I have smelt rotting grapes and they smell something like a variation on wine. (there are many types of grapes and they would smell different when rotting)

I know someone who likes to eat citric acid powder straight. I cannot do that, I don't mind sour, but do not like it as much as this person.

I don't like strong tea.

I like sweet foods a lot. I can happily eat spoonfuls of sugar straight.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T15:36:02.835Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would suspect that rotting grapes would mostly smell/taste of mold, but I must confess to not having spent much time confirming this suspicion :-/

If you don't like strong tea you probably don't like tannins which means you won't like most red wine.

Wine's major characteristic is its strong acidity. In fact, it is so strong that it needs to be balanced by something and that something is usually tannins (mostly in red wines) or sugar (mostly in white wines).

For a clean sour taste try Portuguese green wine, vinho verde (e.g. Aveleda). For a sweet taste try a German Riesling or maybe an Italian moscato. Don't settle for California equivalents.

Oh, and for a very sweet taste (think liquid raisins) try Pedro Ximenez sherry from Spain. However it's a fortified wine and you'll be able to taste the alcohol.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-22T22:28:09.776Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

my problem with tea is the bitterness, not sure exactly what tannins are and what they taste like.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T23:22:27.516Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tannins are astringent compounds that make your mouth pucker.

The strongest taste of tannins in ordinary food would be, I think, in oversteeped too strong black tea (especially Assam) and unripe persimmons. Well, and some kinds of red wine.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-22T23:34:00.669Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is unripe banana one of them? Because I don't mind that greatly. And unripe persimmons don't bother me that much, (I ate one yesterday) and don't find the taste to be near wine or tea...

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-22T23:43:11.504Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

unripe persimmons don't bother me that much, (I ate one yesterday)

What kind? There are two kinds of persimmons, one that's does NOT have the astringency when unripe (e.g. Fuyu) and one which is so astringent it's basically inedible when unripe (e.g. Hachiya). See e.g. this.

Another way to taste tannins is to chew on an oak leaf.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-23T15:44:11.624Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This one was closer to a Fuyu but we seem to have persimmons that are shaped like Fuyu's and Fuyu's shaped like persimmons from time to time.

The thing I ate was labelled a Persimmon (by a supermarket) but tasted like a Fuyu and looked like a Fuyu in that picture. At this point I have given up trying to tease them apart because its not worth it. It was still a fairly unripe fuyu... I will be looking for an oak tree...

comment by TylerJay · 2015-04-21T04:31:13.328Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I went to a party school for college (a top school in the US though) and was a pretty big partier, so hopefully I can offer the "general population perspective" as I think my early alcohol experiences are closer to that of an average person than to a typical LessWronger.

If you average all my years in college, I probably drank 3.5 or 4 days a week with about a quarter of those sessions to nearly blackout-level intoxication. In my experience, college-aged kids who are relatively new to drinking only care about the intoxicating effects. Since they're not acclimated to the taste of alcohol yet, NO alcoholic drinks really taste good, which is why high school kids and college 1st years drink so much plastic-bottle vodka, usually mixed with or followed by something sugary like soda or a sports drink. Some kinds of alcohol will taste especially bad to new drinkers though, and some types require you to drink more volume to get the desired effect, which is a related selection factor, so there is some taste preference going on.

Fast forward a few years to late-college where people have been drinking socially for 2+ years and you start to see a lot less plastic vodka/Coors Light (except for beer games) and a lot more craft beer and more diverse liquors. Part of that is probably a signaling thing ("look at me, I have a more refined palette than you") but I know that a lot of it is not. When I first started drinking, I didn't like beer at all, and beers with more flavor tasted worse than "piss-water" beer for exactly that reason—they had more flavor. But after a couple of years, I really did enjoy nicer bottled beers a lot more than cheap cans of beer. I would never sit down and drink a Coors Light while watching a movie with a couple friends, but we would often buy a 12 pack of something nicer and drink that, and that decision was purely based on taste (even though the nicer beers are often more bitter than the Coors. They have a more complex taste profile which makes it more enjoyable.) Eventually, the ethanol in the beverage is not really tasted as much (at least for beverages in the 4 to 15% ABV range) and people come to appreciate the other flavors present and develop preferences around those.

Now I want to pose a related question to people who claim to enjoy the taste of certain alcohols that I think may be enlightening: Would you still drink your favorite alcohol if it tasted exactly the same, but didn't have any inebriating effects whatsoever? Personally, I would not, and I would guess that the majority of people would agree with me. However, non-alcoholic beer and wine is sold and I know people (like my mother) who drink one or the other, and often a lot of it. However, many of them are former alcoholics (again, like my mother) so there is probably a more complex addiction- and reward-mechanism-related explanation, at least for my few datapoints.

To answer the other question though, I don't really drink anymore personally—less than 10 times in the past year. I stopped because my hangovers started getting unbearable (really bad "physical" anxiety, like all the symptoms of a panic attack except that I know there's nothing wrong and am not actually worrying about anything, just feeling miserable—headaches/shakiness/photosensitivity/rebound-hyperexcitation/the works). I'll even get hangover symptoms an hour or two after having a single beer if I don't keep drinking, so my only option is to binge drink so I sleep through the night. So these days, I NEVER drink alone and only drink when I'm in a social situation where everyone else is drinking and it would be really unpleasant to be the only sober person (drunk people are less annoying when you're drunk too). I have to weigh the costs and ask myself "is it worth the hangover?" The answer is usually "No," but after enough time of feeling like I'm missing out on all the fun, the answer will become "Yes" and then the timer resets after the hangover the next day. On those occasions where I do drink though, taste is definitely a factor and I like to get the most out of it and have a variety of really nice beers, which I enjoy thoroughly (though now, some of it may be scarcity effects, but I don't think that's a major factor).

Hope this was helpful to someone.

(Made minor edit for accuracy)

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-17T21:13:51.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't drink (or do drugs or smoke). I've never tried drugs or cigarettes, and I've only tasted alcohol, never had a full drink.

I don't enjoy the taste of alcohol at all. The "alcohol aftertaste" is pretty unpleasant to me. And the one time I had a moderate amount of some type of harder alcohol (I lost a bet) I did not enjoy that warm/burning feeling in my stomach at all.

As for my palate, I'd rate my tolerance for spice at about a 3/10 and my tolerance for sour/bitter at about a 6/10. The sour/bitter is harder to judge - I love lemon and lime, but I don't like coffee at all. Well, I actually sort of like the taste of coffee, but only when it's part of one of those milk shake things. Any type of regular coffee with cream and sugar had been too strong for me.

As for the drinking/drugs thing though, another big reason why I don't do it is social/personal.


The "alcohol environments" I've been exposed to have largely been American high school and college. People in this environment tend to be stupid and wild when they drink, and I don't find that fun.

Furthermore, they also seem to start acting immorally. For example, my freshman year of college, all the guys on my dorm floor were pretty close and really friendly with one another. They were a fun and relatively interesting group of people, and I enjoyed their company. When they drank, I actually still often had fun around them, but not always. One time some guys came back from some party with a huge wooden table, and were laughing and bragging that they stole it. Everyone around me was drunk and found it hilarious, seemingly because it was so random and weird. I was appalled. I don't find theft to be funny.

Also, a lot of drinking seems to happen in party/dancing environments, which I find myself moderately uncomfortable in. I also don't find those environments fun because of the noise and crowdedness (I'm a bit claustrophobic). Tim Urban does a good job explaining why these environments are so unpleasant, and I share his feelings.


There do exist more relaxed and sensible environments where people drink, so my complaints above don't explain why I don't drink in these environments (other than the fact that I don't like the taste, but let's put that aside for now).

The reason why people drink in these environments seems to be because it's a "social lubricant". Ie. it makes them uninhibited, and they could have more fun when they're uninhibited. But what does this actually mean?

Well, it means that a) there are thoughts they enjoy expressing that they're too afraid to express when they're sober. And/or b) there are behaviors they enjoy performing that they're too afraid to perform when they're sober. In other words, if you diff "things I say when I'm sober" with "things I say when I'm drunk", it returns something. And if you diff "things I do when I'm sober" with "things I do when I'm drunk", it also returns something.

Some of the things that turn up in the diffs are desirable. For example, it's probably a good thing that being drunk makes you silly, because being silly is fun (for some people; not me). But you don't want to be silly at work or when you go to the super market.

However, I think that a lot of the things that turn up in the diff are a result of you not being comfortable with yourself, and I think that this is undesirable. For example, people generally are uncomfortable talking to new people, especially when you have to do the initiating. Alcohol, being a social lubricant, can facilitate this and lead to a good time.

But to me, this feels very much like admitting defeat. The way I see it, if I'm afraid or ashamed to do something, there are two possible reasons why:

1) I'm ashamed about something that I should be ashamed about.

2) I'm irrationally afraid/ashamed to do something.

In case 1, I think I should fix it. I don't think it makes sense to be ashamed about anything you can't fix. From that it follows that the things I'd be ashamed about are fixable, and it's my feeling that "thus I should fix them".

In case 2, I think I should overcome these irrational feelings.

I don't think this philosophy of how to handle cases 1 and 2 is perfect though. I used to take it pretty literally, but I've since realized that it's unreasonable to think you could fix all the irrational feelings your brain produces. So as far as drinking goes, I'll give it a fair shot some time, but so far I haven't been motivated enough to do so.

Also, this approach to handling cases 1 and 2 is something I apply to life in general, not just to drinking. I try to never hide anything (that's why I use my real name everywhere on the internet) and I'm comfortable answering pretty much any sort of personal question (so AMA!). And even when I'm not comfortable, I try to do it anyway. It's my way of facing the truth. After all:

What is true is already so.

Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.

Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.

And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.

Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.

People can stand what is true,

for they are already enduring it.

Update: After reading Eliezer's Facebook post on doing things to make sure you're not falling victim to the bias towards self-consistency, I decided to go out and drink a beer. I thought it tasted awful and I had to force myself through it. I think I experienced some sort of buzz though. But definitely not nearly enough to outweigh the bad taste.

Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic, sentientplatypus, Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-18T11:45:18.906Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In case 2, I think I should overcome these irrational feelings.

Well, alcohol is one possible way of achieving that.

Replies from: adamzerner
comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-18T16:05:35.985Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, but it's like a band aid. What I meant (but didn't communicated) is that I want to yank out those irrational feelings from their root, so they're not a part of me anymore. The way I see it, the fact that they're a part of you is a bad thing that should be fixed. For the most part. "I've since realized that it's unreasonable to think you could fix all the irrational feelings your brain produces."

comment by sentientplatypus · 2015-04-22T18:37:57.576Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not saying you should start drinking but almost no one likes the taste of alcohol the first time they try it.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, adamzerner
comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-22T21:40:15.903Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Replies from: Good_Burning_Plastic
comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-23T09:02:52.927Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No option for "I can't remember"?

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-22T20:33:37.571Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for making that point. I didn't really know that. I'll take it into consideration.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-04-18T11:43:59.040Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As for my palate, I'd rate my tolerance for spice at about a 3/10 and my tolerance for sour/bitter at about a 6/10. The sour/bitter is harder to judge - I love lemon and lime, but I don't like coffee at all.

Why are you lumping them together in the first place? Couldn't you rate your tolerance for sour at about a 8/10 and your tolerance for bitter at about a 4/10?

Replies from: adamzerner
comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-18T15:52:21.591Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In theory, yes. But I don't really understand the difference between sour and bitter. Ie. when I'm tasting stuff, I don't really know if what I'm tasting is called sour or whether it's called bitter.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T02:42:53.029Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

that is fascinating! To me they are very different flavours.

Replies from: adamzerner
comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-21T03:22:59.128Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was actually just thinking about it some more. About 20 minutes ago I was eating a strawberry thinking, "is this called bitter or sour?"

The hypothesis I arrived at is that I hardly eat many bitter foods and so I don't have a great label for what bitter is and so I wonder whether the sour things I eat are actually bitter.

But I think I understated my ability to distinguish them. I had some omelet for lunch today with kale and collards, neither of which I think I've had before. I didn't enjoy it. I think it's because those things are bitter. Is that true? Is kale and/or collards considered to be bitter?

Another interesting thing I was thinking about... so I've been trying to learn a bit about cooking and blending different flavors together. I was thinking about the fact that there really only exist a handful of fundamental flavors. And so since a few weeks ago, every so often I try to think about what I'm eating as a blend of those fundamental flavors. And when I do that... I stop being to recognize the "higher level flavor". Like when I was doing it with my strawberries, it tasted like a blend of sour and sugar, and then I tried to think about where the "strawberriness" fits in to that, and I couldn't fit it in - it just tasted like sour and sugar!

Replies from: Emily, Elo
comment by Emily · 2015-04-21T08:58:24.529Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is interesting, because it's almost crazy to me that you'd call a strawberry sour - almost as crazy as calling it bitter! Strawberries are really really sweet in my experience. (Unless it was a very unripe one, I suppose?) Although, I'm not hugely keen on them because of texture issues, so possibly I just haven't picked up on sourness...? Sometimes I think I don't taste foods as well when I'm nervous about potential texture variations (for some reason I can get a strong "yuck" reaction from this).

Replies from: faul_sname, Kindly, adamzerner
comment by faul_sname · 2015-04-25T10:30:54.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's almost crazy to me that you wouldn't call strawberries sour. Strawberries taste quite sour to me, and quite sweet as well. I've always thought of sourness as relating to acidity (strawberries and grapefruits actually have pretty similar pH's). I perceive bitterness to be entirely different (strawberries are not bitter, grapefruits are slightly to moderately bitter, depending on the grapefruit, kale is very bitter to me but not at all sour).

Replies from: Emily
comment by Emily · 2015-04-25T11:58:55.854Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. I get grapefruit (which I like better than strawberries) to be quite sour, but not bitter at all.

comment by Kindly · 2015-04-21T11:56:33.008Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are varieties of strawberries that are not sour at all, so I suppose it's possible that you simply have limited experience with strawberries. (Well, you probably must, since you don't like them, but maybe that's the reason you don't think they're sour, as opposed to some fundamental difference in how you taste things.)

I actually don't like the taste of purely-sweet strawberries; the slightly-sour ones are better. A very unripe strawberry would taste very sour, but not at all sweet, and its flesh would also be very hard.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-21T10:20:04.280Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hm, that is interesting. I've always thought that berries were known to be a bit sour, but I also suspect that you're right in saying that they're mostly sweet. To me it seems like a more even balance. It wasn't unripe as far as I could tell, and I got it at the supermarket 3 days ago.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T08:35:51.592Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect kale and collards can be bitter. Although they can be prepared to be less bitter.

I feel like there are many many fundamental flavours. I can regularly figure out the ingredients of a dish based on what it tastes like.

Replies from: adamzerner
comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-21T10:17:35.942Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


It seems to be a bit more ambiguous than calling it "fundamental" though.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T10:45:05.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't feel like those are the best group to divide foods into. Although I don't have better groups to suggest.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-04-19T10:23:17.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a strong tolerance for, and enjoyment of , spicy and bitter flavours. I drink for much needed disinhibition ... drinking moves me towards normal, rather than drunk. My favourite nipples are IPA and Belgian Ales (used to live there). The lack of a sweet tooth corresponding to a fondness for bitter flavours seems to be doing good things for my weight.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:29:31.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why do you call it a tolerance? How do you know you have a tolerance? Surely you should just have a "taste preference"?

Are you saying that you can still taste how bitter something is and also be willing to eat it and actively choose to eat it more often?

Replies from: TheAncientGeek
comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-04-21T08:03:11.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some people can't tolerate the stuff I drink.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-18T01:17:59.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Personally I haven't come into contact with alcohol too much, mostly because of the circles I grew up in. I didn't drink for years because my friends didn't drink, and later on because I was running competitively and conscientious about my caloric intake.

Now, I drink socially, but I have a high tolerance for alcohol and rarely experience lowered inhibitions. I actually like the taste of many drinks, and so I've never really put much thought into the fact that I drink (but I do go through some mental distress about the opportunity cost, i.e. "this isn't healthy, and if I'm going to consume something unhealthy, ice cream tastes better!") I've been borderline drunk (in friendly environments) only a handful of times, and always enjoyed it at least for the novelty of the experience. But if I were told I could never have another drink, I'd be totally fine with it.

As for my palate, I like everything except horseradish, whatever that's worth.

Some of my favorite drinks are various mojitos (when going out) and kahlua with milk (hanging out at someone's house). Beer and wine taste okay/good too, but honestly, if I'm having only 1-2 drinks, I'd probably rather just have lemonade or something.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T02:42:06.242Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

do you eat wasabi? Its similar to horseraddish but definitely different. What about spicy foods? Chilli, Curry?

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-21T02:45:59.879Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wasabi is one of maybe about 3-4 foods I don't like, but merely tolerate. I like chili and curry. I like a medium spice level. I can handle jalapeños and spicy Mexican food, but not spicy Indian food. But normally hot sauce just overpowers the flavor of the dish, so I don't really use it.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-04-17T22:21:02.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I turn expensive apple juice into cheap cider at home using powdered champagne yeast to consume during movie nights with friends and whatnot, and enjoy mild quantities of dark beer when eating out at restaurants.

I find cider and other fruit-derived alcohols more enjoyable than light-colored beers, but like dark beer over all else. I prefer the fruit-derived forms without sugar, hence me using a very alcohol tolerant yeast in my own brewing to completely break down all the sugar into alcohol and acetic acid. Many people tell me that the bitter beers I find most superior are disgusting. The same people usually say the same about dark chocolate, which I love, making me suspect there's a difference in how we taste bitter substances. I've also been known to eat bunches of parsley like a carrot, bolstering this idea. I like it for its taste even without the effects of alcohol, which I am a bit of a lightweight for - I start to feel a little dissociated (like I'm watching myself act rather than acting) for a short time after only one strong high-alcohol beer or a large-coffee-mug of my homemade cider, with the sensation getting stronger with more.

Course this means that on the rare occasions I have 3+ beers I have a tendency to say to someone "This is funny I feel like I'm watching myself rather than causing myself to act right now which is of course impossible since I'm telling you about that sensation, but it also feels like I'm just watching that happen, which leads to this infinite regress which can't actually happen and tells me its just my perception that is being altered -" etc etc followed either by more geekouts with certain friends, laughter with certain other friends, and odd looks from many others.

Only ever had enough to be hung over twice in my life, once explicitly as an experiment. When you titrate yourself carefully on the other hand it can be used to interesting effect for internal icebreaking.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:46:25.967Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I seem to have slept through nearly every hangover I expected to have. That and also drinking enough water seems to do it for me. I also seem to wake up after alcohol; lively and dynamic; whereas others seem to drag themselves around.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-17T11:49:10.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

High end liquor is very tasty, imo. I am partial to good cognac and scotch. We have a poor vocabulary for flavor distinctions for these things. I read some professional taster stuff and have a hard time mapping those things to what I experience.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-17T15:03:06.276Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

We have a poor vocabulary for flavor distinctions for these things.

It's generally interesting how poor human language is at describing what we taste and smell. To go into any level of detail you have to resort to analogies ("...pronounced flavors of blackcurrant and plum with some burnt sugar aftertaste...").

Replies from: TylerJay, ChristianKl
comment by TylerJay · 2015-04-21T05:00:50.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's a really interesting point. Personally, I never even taste the things that people make analogies to when drinking wine. An ex-girlfriend of mine would always ask me things like "don't you taste blackberries? or "Isn't this buttery?" and would be really disappointed when I said no. I don't think it's because I have a bad sense of taste though. In fact, I'll often be able to tell if I've had a specific wine before (if it's the same vintage) because I recognize the taste signature, and I can sometimes say which other wines I've had that it tastes similar to. I just don't know how to describe the flavors.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-04-17T15:29:56.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's generally interesting how poor human language is at describing what we taste and smell.

Doesn't seem to be universal for human languages Jahai for example has more words than English.

comment by RowanE · 2015-04-17T10:11:03.145Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really don't like the taste of alcohol, but that doesn't mean there aren't any alcoholic beverages I like - I go for the ones that are sugary enough to mask the taste, and/or shots of spirits that go down quickly and don't so much have a "taste" as cause a burning sensation along with the taste of whatever's in with the alcohol. That burning sensation can seem to be rounding off the flavour somehow, like I expect sambuca wouldn't be as good as simply the sweet liquoricey taste, but I don't think that really qualifies as liking alcohol, notwithstanding how weird people find it that I can tell them "I don't like the taste of alcohol" between sips of a double sambuca.

When I drink, I'm getting drunk with other students, so it's both "drinking to get drunk" and "drinking socially", and I don't think I'd do either of those things individually. I'm not sure if I'd even go along with "let's all go out and get drunk" half as enthusiastically outside of the context of student drinking culture.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:17:17.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This does sound similar to me. Do you drink tea with several sugars?

Replies from: RowanE
comment by RowanE · 2015-04-21T01:32:19.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I only have one sugar, but supposing that you're asking whether I weaken the taste, I do take it weak and milky, enough that some people (such as my brother) have commented "you're just drinking milk" or words to that effect.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T02:56:48.194Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have 2.5 sugars or more in a normal (and slightly weak) cup of tea. (sometimes with milk)

I was asking about the sugar. But on this note - I do find tea to be bitter.

I get comments like - "do you want some tea in your cup of sugar-water?" (I say no)

Replies from: RowanE
comment by RowanE · 2015-04-21T03:53:02.446Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

On the occasions when I do decide to have less milk (or no milk, but I only do that if there isn't any), I do have about that much sugar.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-17T07:33:31.677Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To me, alcohol itself has no taste. There is a certain mouthfeel common to alcoholic drinks, the stronger the higher the alcohol content, but not a taste as such. As far as taste is concerned, beer, wine, and whisky are completely different things. Rhubarb vodka tastes only of rhubarb, orange liqueur tastes only of oranges, etc.

I have never experienced the stereotypical "disinhibition". Alcohol does not make me any more talkative, or moved to sing raucously, or dance, or pick fights, or anything of that sort. I just get a certain sense of detachment from my surroundings.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:37:30.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sometimes with that detachment comes the "freedom from outcome and failure" which is all that some people need to be encouraged to try to talk to strangers.

I started thinking wine only tasted like alcohol, now it tastes like rotting grapes with an alcoholic after-taste. which is not any nice than before.

For example with spirits - do you get the burning sensation that is usually described as "fire in your belly" or "burning down the throat" with say; scotch, vodka, rum...?

Replies from: RichardKennaway
comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-04-21T04:56:42.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For example with spirits - do you get the burning sensation that is usually described as "fire in your belly" or "burning down the throat" with say; scotch, vodka, rum...?

Only in the throat.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2015-04-17T02:26:01.384Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

am very sensitive to bitter flavours.

There's a common SNP variation for that. If you have it, you're particularly sensitive to bitter tastes while young, but that sensitivity turns to unsensitivity when you get older. All of a sudden, bitter things start to taste ok. I like Brussel Sprouts now.

I used to like the sweet drinks too, particularly port. Still do, but the harder stuff tastes better now.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:32:20.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My dad still doesn't like brussel sprouts at my age + 30ish years. He does drink coffee though, but doesn't much like olives.

I await the day that things that don't taste nice suddenly start to taste nice!

comment by chaosmage · 2015-04-17T02:00:20.676Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm kind of opposite from you, I have a fairly low-resolution sense of taste. I sometimes genuinely can't tell the difference between two foods that everyone else assures me are of very different quality. I don't mind the taste of alcohol at all. I've actually drunk a bit of 99% pure alcohol once or twice, and while it certainly wasn't a pleasant taste, it was my brain, and the instant numbness in my throat, that told me this was a really stupid idea, not the taste.

I do drink small amounts on occasion, and for me types of alcoholic beverages are hugely different, in ways that are obviously cultural not physiological. Sparkling wine, for example, is for celebration, the sensation of drinking it reminds me of a hundred different other happy occasions and makes me happy even if this particular occasion isn't really one I particularly care about. Beer, wine, cocktails all have their roles as signifiers of particular situations.

The main benefit of alcohol, it seems to me, is a particular kind of closeness between people at similar levels of alcoholic intoxication. People call it reduced inhibitions, but I don't think that's very accurate. I suspect it is more about imagining each other less complexly, which builds trust somehow. (Maybe intoxication makes you vulnerable and shared vulnerability builds intimacy. Or maybe you just know on a visceral level, that insincerity is just too hard for the both of you right now. I don't know, I don't claim to understand the mechanism, but the resulting effect seems solid.)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-04-17T01:29:22.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have precisely the same problem with bitter flavors. I avoid olives, beer, and coffee.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-20T23:50:15.108Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I will post a second thread about flavour and taste soon. (and will link here as well)

comment by Angela · 2015-04-23T06:48:35.767Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have tried alcohol twice in an attempt to break my reputation for being a loner who doesn't drink. Both times I felt very drowsy afterwards, had to go to bed early and slept about ten hours. Sleepiness was the only discernible effect.

Replies from: Elo, Lumifer
comment by Elo · 2015-04-23T15:55:11.832Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You can be a loner who drinks and a non-loner who does not drink. They are separate problems and its completely up to you if you even mind being alone enough to change your "reputation" of "lonerness".

Its like you making the decision that you don't mind not being drunk.

Things that come with the territory of not drinking include - not understanding what people are going on about; and not doing the social drinking ritual that many other people do.

Things that come with chosing to not socialise a lot; not being reasonably able to complain about the bad sides of your chosen social-position, potential loneliness, potential freedom to explore the globe without feeling like you are leaving friends behind, opportunities to meet new people in the time that might otherwise be spent with people you already know... increased productivity by having more time, decreased productivity for time spent worrying about being alone.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-23T14:29:13.523Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Technically speaking, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

comment by Username · 2015-04-18T01:32:48.403Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Currently a student in my last year, I get drunk 2 or 3 nights a week, sometimes higher and sometimes lower. I usually don't have any alcohol unless I've got night plans and am trying to get buzzed/drunk - a single beer or glass of wine to unwind is very rare for me. My relationship to alcohol is pretty much completely social. When everyone has lower inhibitions, the potential for novel shared experiences is much higher and conversation flows much more easily. My friend groups in college have similarly been partial to alcohol - I started a social fraternity, and most of the people I spend time with outside of class have come from extensions of that network. I don't think I can name a single person in my social friend group (as opposed to my engineering classmate groups) that doesn't drink.

I'm not worried about addiction, because over the summers when I'm not around my frequently-drinking friends I don't have an impetus to drink and won't buy any booze unless it's wine to cook with. I also have SNPs that put me at lower-risk for alcohol dependency, but I don't weigh that as heavily as observing my patterns of behavior.

As for taste, pure alcohol doesn't really have a taste (at least, it didn't when I tried a shot of 95% alcohol). The 95% alcohol didn't burn at all (it just felt very very dry and warm), but that was oddly uncharacteristic. I usually feel the alcohol burn when I take shots, but chasing them counters that. Mixed drinks, wine, and beer taste good on their own and while I can tell there is alcohol in the drink, in a good drink it fades into the background behind the other flavors. Shots of hard alcohol can taste good, but I suspect this is more because of the association these flavors have with fun experiences than the actual taste. For reference, I have an unrestricted food pallet, barring a few things like tripe.

comment by Vladimir_Golovin · 2015-04-17T19:08:18.046Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I prefer stronger alcohol in very small doses (20-30g or so), just for the taste and for unwinding after a hard day. I don't like feeling 'buzzed', let alone drunk, so I don't usually drink more than that: a normal-sized bottle of good scotch can last for several months.

Taste-wise, I like higher-end scotch whisky (mostly various single malts, peated or otherwise, including cask strength ones) and plain simple bourbon, but I can't stomach any dose of vodka - I find its taste disgusting. I also enjoy good wine, no matter white or red. I don't drink beer, though I can definitely enjoy it.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2015-04-17T02:24:49.643Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like the flavour of some alcoholic drinks, but I think that's partly because of anticipating the effect of the alcohol. In other words some drinks taste better than others to me and some I might even describe as delicious, but I wouldn't drink them if they had no psychoactive effect. (I was a somewhat picky eater growing up, less so now, though still a bit more than average.)

Replies from: ahbwramc
comment by ahbwramc · 2015-04-17T15:47:09.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh hey, convenient. Someone already wrote my reply.

comment by sentientplatypus · 2015-04-22T18:35:52.389Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I drink fairly regularly. It makes social gatherings more fun. I have some rules for drinking: only drink at social gatherings and only drink an amount that does not impair my ability to operate the next day.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-22T23:04:42.530Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A healthy rule for limiting the chance of picking up alcoholism that builds on itself is to never drink alone.

I have different opinions of the value of "now" and "tomorrow" in relative circumstances, (now is almost always worth more) so I can't really do the second one. (having said that, I don't drink much)

comment by James_Ernest · 2015-04-21T09:07:04.968Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I drink the equivalent of 1-2 bottles of wine per week (purchasing 2-3 bottles, some will be consumed by my girlfriend), mostly medium reds (shiraz, merlot; zinfandel and chianti when I can get them), some white aromatics (riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris), mostly 1-2 glasses at a time in the evening, for the purposes of relaxation and gustatory pleasure.

Beer is not good on my digestion, and I almost totally avoid it except for particularly tasty ones (prototypically, something like a Trappistes Rochefort 10). Even the thought of swilling a six-pack is enough to cause me pain.

When drinking socially (~biweekly), it will be whisky (Scotch, neat, naturally), neat Jäger, or possibly G&T or white/black russians if I'm mixing for other people, most usually not to the point of inebriation, just to maintain a comfortable level of sociable buzz. To this end, I adopt an approach informed by control theory, and deliberately front-load my consumption to give something close to an ideal dead-beat response when convolved with my internal alcohol-processing dynamics.

My palate is fairly typical, I have a (probably conditioned) liking for the taste of alcohol, a sweet tooth that I have a System II response against, and as far as I can tell, average-to-low bitterness tolerance (the only coffee I will drink is strong espresso, but I am very sensitive to improper extraction and the associated bitterness.

comment by raydora · 2015-04-18T16:09:27.588Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've liked beer since adulthood, chiefly because I love coarse, bitter breads and beer (I tend to stay away from the blander productions mass marketed by the largest brewing companies) has always seemed like a wonderful liquid take on bread.

Food is my primary source of hedons, and my beverage consumption developed as an extension of that. I have a love affair with mead, a recurring fling with whiskey, and an occasional one night stand with liquors at large. I appreciate cocktails, but I've found my tastes to require seeking bartenders that are near impossible to find in smaller towns.

I do not wish to spend the money (on liquor alone) required to learn the skills required to rival them, though I will mix a few drinks on very special (Thanksgiving, etc) occasions.

I spend about 5.5% of my income on alcohol.

I never drank exclusively for the purpose of getting drunk until I joined the military, but it's still a rare occurrence.

The sensation itself is akin to a combination of runner's high, fatigue, and, well, being a teenager again. It usually puts me in a good mood and makes it easier for me to enjoy social interactions, and essentially dulls any input my System 2 might have on System 1.

I drink every weekend, at an average of about six bottles of beer or a bottle of wine. Once every three months or so, I will drink more. I know that the equivalent of about 11 bottles of beer begins to stress my digestive system to unpleasant levels, so that's where I usually stop. I have gone over this limit less than a handful of times.

I know that I will not drink if the only thing available to me, was, say, Budweiser or a Cabernet. Even if I have been gifted with something like Mike's Hard Lemonade or Redd's cider, well, I won't really drink anything of that sort, either.

I will not sacrifice expenditures on living expenses, books, or luxury foods for most types of alcohol. While I'm not an alcoholic, I'm probably close to it.

There is ignorance in the bottle, and in that ignorance is a kind of peace.

That, coupled, with a strong appreciation of flavor and texture from anything I ingest is probably why I consume alcohol.

It is one more pit stop in the race against Akrasia.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:27:47.833Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I appreciate the quantified measure of how much alcohol and how much you spend on it. This sounds like a topic you have invested a lot of thought into already.

I find the "dull system 2" as you described to be unproductive in trying to get to the types of interesting conversations that I try to get into. "being social" has not been enough for me since I realised that I sometimes did not like spending time with a particular social group and asked myself why that was so. I am still trying to be social to gain valuable insight into life and new information about the world around me. When I get tired of that I will probably be okay being "generally social", but that may be a sad day for the scientist within me...

comment by emr · 2015-04-18T04:24:27.865Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hypothesise a lower proportion of drinkers than the rest of the population. (subject of course to cultural norms where you come from)

Curiously, high SES in the United States is correlated with more frequent alcohol consumption.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:22:16.793Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Part of that might be that in Hight SES you have more budget to spend on alcohol, also more free time to spend drinking, and can afford more delicious alcohols.

I still think the number of responses here indicates less alcohol consumption, but I am yet to tally.

comment by Dorikka · 2015-04-18T03:55:28.935Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

High tolerance for bitter, love coffee, beer tends to taste good, but I don't drink much at all - not really into psychoactive substances; melatonin is pretty much my limit. Cause is mostly black swan health and mental risks, social risks (less control over behavior).

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:20:30.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is almost unfathomable that beer could taste "good". Do you like Tempeh? How about strong cheeses?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-17T19:31:27.726Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't drink, and don't much like the taste of alcohol in other things; I tend to avoid it.

When I drank, I didn't much like the taste of alcohol; my goal was partly to numb myself, and partly to fit in socially.

There are some liquors that kind of taste OK despite the alcohol in them, and I suspect I would really enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage in the same family concocted with the same attention to detail, but by and large my culture doesn't devote that much attention to non-alcoholic beverages.

Ditto for food, though a lot there depends on the preparation; sometimes I don't taste the alcohol in food. That said, I know many people who swear by the indispensible flavor whatevers in beer, wine, etc. for cooking, and I've never been able to distinguish them from the flavors of (e.g.) good fruit juices.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:18:52.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your post! Really good to get the feedback.

Do you have a different attitude to fitting in socially now?

Replies from: TheOtherDave
comment by TheOtherDave · 2015-04-21T03:57:38.570Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. Mostly I'm not in high school anymore, and my social circle is people I choose to be around, which makes things very different.

comment by Viliam · 2015-04-17T13:45:57.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hate beer, but most other forms of alcohol are to me like "candy for adult people". If I have alcohol at home, I am tempted to drink it. Luckily, if I don't have it at home, I am not tempted to go buy one.

Explaining why I like the taste of alcohol would be like explaining why I like spicy food. It burns on the tongue but it still makes me feel warm and good.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:14:59.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very interesting way to describe alcohol. I feel like candy is candy for adult people. Alcohol is nothing like candy. but this certainly helps to change my picture of how other people understand alcohol.

Do you still eat candy? What are your tastes/feelings towards candy?


Replies from: Viliam
comment by Viliam · 2015-04-21T08:38:51.020Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I eat everything that contains sugar. I try to avoid doing this too often, but the temptation is very strong. (Unlike with alcohol, even if I don't have anything sweet at home, I feel a desire to go and buy something.)

Substitutes for sugar are: alcohol, soylent. That is, when I drink alcohol or soylent, I no longer desire to also eat something sweet.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T09:20:13.317Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For what its worth - (unverified source) internet google searched image of - "craving foods and what it means" http://bluelyfetraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/foodcraving.png

I saw them a long time ago and kept it in the back of my mind that "cravings" are not always related to what you think you should eat.

comment by Emily · 2015-04-17T09:01:13.917Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have a similar experience: my usual comment on tasting pretty much any alcoholic drink is "...well, it definitely tastes like ethanol?" I kind of figured that was the point and most people who drink regularly have got adapted to the burning-aftertaste-sensation enough that they a) get to like it, and b) can taste other things in the same mouthful. I can also manage to slowly drink small amounts of quite sweet drinks, but not really anything else (and I don't generally bother to do that; I'm just not interested, really). I also seem to be pretty hypersensitive to the alcohol: I get flushed with even a tiny amount and there's a joke that I can get drunk off "fumes". This has been fun on the odd occasion a few years ago but not something I would seek out.

However, it's not quite the same as what you're describing because I don't have the general sensitivity to bitter flavours. I do like sweet things, but I also really like olives, to take your example, and plenty of other bitter foods. Not coffee though (although I do suspect I could acquire a taste for that if I wanted to try, whereas that seems very unlikely in the case of alcohol).

Replies from: Lumifer, Elo
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-17T15:07:06.571Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

there's a joke that I can get drunk off "fumes".

Everybody can, in fact inhaling alcohol vapors is a very efficient way of getting very drunk very quickly.

Replies from: Emily
comment by Emily · 2015-04-18T17:05:57.367Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. The joke is that it's just the ambient fumes from other people's drinks, not from purposefully inhaling vapours beyond maybe a brief sniff of someone's beer. It is just a joke / exaggeration of oversensitivity.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:41:30.281Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find I can act more freely around drunk people. Something like how you can pick up people's accents and start using them by accident. and also "pretending to be drunk" allows for more social freedom. Although being drunk seems to slow down my brain and frustrate me more than help in social situations.

Replies from: Emily
comment by Emily · 2015-04-21T08:36:34.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I agree - there's almost definitely some of that going on.

comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:48:50.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. So bitterness complaints is not necessarily the same as "tastes like alcohol", many people of similar experience seem to have mentioned bitter-alcohol correlation.

I might tally up the responses and see if I can get some kind of results from these.

Someone here suggested 30 attempts to get used to alcohol, I think it might be closer to 50. which is one a month for 5 years, or one a week for a year. hardly seems worth the concentrated effort.

Replies from: Emily
comment by Emily · 2015-04-21T08:38:48.380Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Depending on exactly how you define an attempt, I'm probably way, way below 50. So perhaps my assessment that I couldn't acquire the taste is wrong and it would just take a lot more attempts than I would have thought.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T09:15:49.611Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My attempt was, every few weeks; "have a sip of X wine (usually from the glass of someone else having it)", "decide if I like it".

So far no progress in liking wine. I don't feel like I am getting any closer though, and I don't mind sacrificing a moment of "tasting something bad" towards the goal of trying wines, or trying to like them.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T15:55:48.788Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would suggest being a bit more systematic about it. Sipping wine from a glass of someone in your circle actually locks you into a fairly narrow range of wines/flavors. Find examples of wines which go into particular directions (even as basic as sweet, sour, tannic, etc.), see if you like any particular direction. If you do, explore around it.

To exaggerate a bit, taking sips from beer cups at student parties will not tell you what actual beer tastes like and whether you like it or not :-)

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T17:43:29.300Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Similarly with beers, finding out what beer someone is drinking, and what they think makes it different from other beers (and if its one I have tried before), then trying it, seems like a good way to try new beers, but so far I don't really like any of the ones I have tried, (~20+)

I still try like this because I have never been sure if my taste preference will change, or if the different wines will taste better.

Mostly I find a few friends who drink wine to go around trying various wines, not sticking to the same ones, although I don't exactly follow this very closely, I might start keeping a list of types of wine I have tried..

comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-17T07:26:05.824Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I try to keep my sugar intake to a minimum for weight control, so I quite enjoy bitter foods, but I'm also picky. I drink black coffee daily prepared from a French Press. I dislike most people's poorly made drip coffee that seems to be available everywhere I go these days. When I drink socially, I'll usually either have a bold red wine, a Belgian white ale, or 6+ year aged whiskey on the rocks (hate most dark liquor wells). I find most candy to be too sweet. I avoid juice, soda, ice cream, etc. although I do enjoy them.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:32:44.581Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You should come to Australia. We have fancy coffee everywhere (drip stuff is known as non-comparable) or at least thats what I hear.

alcohol spirits have something like 8 calories/gram. which is a lot. for dieting it might be best to cut out all alcohols.

I enjoy sugar too much to cut it out like that, but it sounds like you have brought the weight-health goal into focus so well that it can influence your taste preference. Is that correct?

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-27T10:33:40.607Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't really understand the term fancy coffee. I grew up with even the poorest families owning a cheap moka pot and while theoretically that is not espresso, it doubles as pretty good one anyway. In Central Europe it is not a social class thing. If anything, it is the kind of coffee purchased, not the way of preparation, as some brands are cheaper than others.

I really wish moka pots would get more internationally known. They are dirt cheap, dirt simple, and can bring good coffee into precisely those poor homes that need such small life hacks the most. I hope someone's exporting them to Africa or having the made locally.

Replies from: Lumifer, IlyaShpitser
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T14:33:12.893Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

really wish moka pots would get more internationally known. They are dirt cheap, dirt simple, and can bring good coffee into precisely those poor homes that need such small life hacks the most.

Things like Aeropress are even simpler. And really poor houses make excellent coffee in just a small pot -- you probably know it as Turkish coffee -- and have been doing this for decades and centuries.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2015-04-27T14:41:54.492Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, tried the Aeropress when ThinkGeek.com introduced it, then eventually returned to the moka pot or other espresso or quasi-espresso makers because I missed the burnt flavor.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-27T14:58:59.455Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The burnt flavor is mostly a function of the roast of the beans, could possible be a function of the grinder, and is affected by water temperature.

You're used to the taste that your moka pot provides and you like it -- fine. But saying that everyone else should switch to them would be a 'typical nose/tongue" fallacy :-)

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-04-27T11:42:36.236Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dzhezvas are even cheaper and more low tech :). Some of the best coffee I ever had was from a dzhezva.

comment by 9eB1 · 2015-04-17T06:50:21.704Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People on Less Wrong are, in my limited experience, much less interested in drinking than average for their demographic.

When I was in high school, I never drank with my friends, really, and I didn't see the appeal of it. When I went to college I joined a social group that enjoyed drinking and, though I didn't really enjoy it that much in the beginning, eventually I did come to enjoy it. Now I still enjoy drinking a reasonable amount, and even getting very drunk on rare occasions where it seems like it would be fun. I think people here underestimate how many times you have to drink in order to enjoy it. My brother decided that it would be beneficial to try enjoying alcohol while he was in his late 30s, and he really had to put in some effort, but eventually, after perhaps dozens of parties where he forced himself to drink, he started to enjoy it.

Given how seemingly objectively unfavorable the flavor of alcohol is, it's likely that the only reason people find beer, wine or liquor enjoyable is because they are conditioned to associate that flavor with the positive effects it has on their mood. Heroin addicts find the idea of injecting needles into their arms to be enjoyable, even thrilling, so the power of association is almost arbitrarily powerful if you have something satisfying enough to associate it with.

Replies from: adamzerner
comment by adamzerner · 2015-04-17T22:20:17.786Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think people here underestimate how many times you have to drink in order to enjoy it.

Given how seemingly objectively unfavorable the flavor of alcohol is, it's likely that the only reason people find beer, wine or liquor enjoyable is because they are conditioned to associate that flavor with the positive effects it has on their mood.

Would you mind explaining this a bit more? I'm confused. Why/when exactly do you think that drinking -> enjoying drinking more? Also, you say that people associate it with positive effects on their mood, but what originally produces those positive effects?

Replies from: 9eB1
comment by 9eB1 · 2015-04-20T17:38:28.879Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My theory is that the main reason people come to enjoy the taste of alcohol is because of conditioning. You drink alcohol and your mind detects the flavor of the alcohol. Concurrently, your mind begins to feel the psychoactive effects of the alcohol, which include improvement in mood, mild euphoria, decreased anxiety, increased self-confidence and increased sociability. This effect comes quickly, so you mind readily associates the two stimuli. Because of that association, you begin to enjoy the taste of the alcohol itself. So to explicitly answer your question, I think drinking leads to enjoying drinking more most of the time for people who haven't formed that association, and the original producer of those positive effects is the alcohol.

There is no bitter drink that people become connoisseurs of that does not have psychoactive properties that I know of (although I'd love to hear examples). Tea, coffee, beer, and wine all have psychoactive properties, and each has a following of people who work to detect minute flavor differences in them ("tasting notes") and say they are enjoyable. Given that many plants are bitter and are not psychoactive, isn't it suspicious that you don't find connoisseurs of drinking these other beverages, or that they aren't equally popular? Even the most common herbal teas are mildly psychoactive, I believe (e.g. chamomile, peppermint).

Replies from: Lumifer, Elo
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T17:53:04.647Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My theory is that the main reason people come to enjoy the taste of alcohol is because of conditioning. You drink alcohol and your mind detects the flavor of the alcohol.

There are big problems right here. Alcohol -- that is, ethanol, C2H5OH -- is basically tasteless (Wikipedia says it has "a slight odor"). Ethanol diluted with water is called vodka and the taste of unflavored vodka is basically the taste of impurities left from the distillation process (+ overtones from water, etc.).

When most people speak of the "flavor" of alcohol they mean the burning sensation in the mouth.

However that burning sensation is completely absent in beer and is a very minor factor, if any, in the flavor of dry wines which are typically 10-12% alcohol and in which the taste of alcohol is suppressed by the the acidity, the sugar, the tannins, etc.

If you theory were correct, people would drink vodka for the flavor and ignore drinks where the taste of alcohol is not detectable (beer, wine). I don't think that matches reality.

Replies from: Elo, 9eB1
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:42:09.492Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I assume there are two categories of "flavour".

  1. the burning sensation of the pure ethanol, being at whatever strength the concentration the drink has of ethanol.
  2. the flavours of the drink; sans-alcohol.

I seem to not like either of them.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T03:19:57.698Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a bit more complicated -- there are flavors which are hard to have without alcohol as they dissolve neither in water nor in fat, the usual carriers, but do dissolve in alcohol.

Even among beers where the "burning sensation" is entirely absent, the flavor diversity is huge -- from Belgian lambics which are almost pure fruit or berry to stouts with dark, burnt flavors.

comment by 9eB1 · 2015-04-20T18:13:12.946Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I worded that poorly. I wasn't referring to the flavor of the ethanol, I was referring to the flavor of the alcoholic beverage. And by flavor I was really referring to the sensory experience of consuming the beverage, including taste, smell and touch sensations, not specifically the way it binds to receptors in your taste buds. So I don't think that's a big problem, more like a nitpick. I encourage you to be more charitable in your future readings of my comments, to say "what here might be true, or pointing to a true effect" and then engaging with that, rather than searching for things to be dismissive about.

From the inside, it genuinely feels like I enjoy the sensation of drinking whiskey. I am the sort of person that will look for tasting notes in spirits. But I don't drink non psychoactive drinks that way, and no one else does either, which you would expect they would if the flavor's subtle complexity on its own were enough to explain the fact that it tastes good. If everyone were going around drinking something that tasted just like 30 year-old scotch, but without alcohol, and they all talked about how interesting, subtle and complex its flavor profile it, I'm pretty sure I would have tried it once and said, "This tastes gross" and never tried it again. So I don't think a purely social explanation is sufficient.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-20T18:24:32.896Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was referring to the flavor of the alcoholic beverage

I don't understand what do you mean. There is no the alcoholic beverage. The flavor of a Bud Light is entirely different from the flavor of an Imperial Stout which is entirely different from the flavor of a Cabernet red wine which is entirely different from the flavor of tequila, etc. etc.

I'm not nitpicking, I'm disagreeing with you :-)

But I don't drink non psychoactive drinks that way, and no one else does either

However a lot of people eat food this way. Cheese, for example, has no psychoactive qualities and comes in a very large variety of flavors including ones which are unusual and offputting to some people.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:38:19.588Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect 9eB1 meant that a drink should have "psychoactive properties" to gather a culture of "tasting notes" around its perceived "flavour properties" and somehow although people drink for the psychoactive properties, they believe they drink for the flavour properties.

I agree with the variations in cheese flavours that people talk about; and also bread for that matter. Also fish, smoked foods, vinegars, oils, cake...

Also worth adding is things like "coffee flavour" would not be appealing if people didn't also like the flavour. Some people below have mentioned liking coffee icecream but not coffee.

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T03:15:22.617Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suspect 9eB1 meant that a drink should have "psychoactive properties" to gather a culture of "tasting notes" around its perceived "flavour properties" and somehow although people drink for the psychoactive properties, they believe they drink for the flavour properties.

Yes, I think he means something like that and I disagree with that. I think alcoholic drinks actually have a very diverse and interesting set of flavors that are worth exploring even without the psychoactive effect of alcohol. De gustibus, of course...

comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T01:43:51.514Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I originally thought by repeat exposure you were referring to an acclimatisation to the taste, and eventually "getting used to the bad parts" so that you can taste the more complicated parts that everyone says they like.

comment by Manfred · 2015-04-17T06:00:37.355Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Drinking alcohol as a social activity is probably the most important one for me - our culture has a variety of social practices for drinking that can lead to fun results if followed (and some others that are less good). This often blurs with social lubrication (do I enjoy talking at the pub because the pub is a socially useful place devoted to providing a space for people to meet and talk? Or is it the booze? Probably some combination, but leaning towards the first one). My family drinks a lot more (where 'a lot more' means average 3 drinks over the course of the afternoon for a few days running) when we have big gatherings, and it's almost entirely as a social ritual and activity, as indulging in a tasty luxury, and then as a psychoactive drug, in decreasing order of importance (though all somewhat important).

Drinking just to relax is generally not worth it for me, I've done it only rarely. As for getting trashed, I recommend avoiding it altogether.

When I drink alcoholic drinks for the taste (the same way that I might drink fruit juice), it's usually beer or wine. Particularly if I'm cooking with wine - because hey, can't just put it all in the food without reserving some. I am absolutely okay with the bitter and herbal flavors - it's just one of those things I've become acclimated to over time that would be weird and bad if I had to try it without acclimation, like mushrooms or strong cheese or hot peppers. Now I perceive those elements as important parts of an interesting flavor.

There's definitely also a burning sensation associated with spirits, and it can put fire in yer belly (in a bad way) if drinking on an empty stomach. But, similar to spiciness, there's a tolerance that is partly innate and partly built up through exposure. There's also an aromatic flavor/smell to alcohol that is another one of those things I've become acclimated to and now perceive as an important flavor element - this is also the part of tasting that detects non-ethanol organic solvents as bad booze.

Drink recommendations for someone who doesn't like bitter flavors or the taste of alcohol: try some non-hoppy beers like milk or oatmeal stouts (e.g. left hand milk stout), and wheat lager (weissbier) (e.g. hacker pschorr hefe weiss). There's also hard cider (tasty and with fewer complications than beer), and low-alcohol mixed drinks like shandy and wine coolers / spritzers.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:29:14.289Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

thanks for the reccomendations! I don't know if I will find them here. I can drink ciders, but they sometimes are bitter as well.

I reccomend getting drunk-trashed once in your life (in a safe environment). For the feeling of what everyone else harps on about. also some interesting superpowers were conveyed to me the first time I understood "drunkedly getting away with things"

comment by jam_brand · 2015-04-17T05:42:15.165Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't much like the taste alcohol; I wouldn't say I have a strong dislike, but I'm pretty ambivalent and will usually abstain when my friends drink. When I do drink, it's usually a single beer (amber ale's usually a safe bet; I don't generally enjoy IPA's) and I'd say I end up drunk on average less than once a year, which typically has happened when a heavy-handed friend has hosted parties and mixed the drinks. Regardless of how much I drink, I never really experience any pro-social effects, though drinking more I do tend to feel mentally sluggish and others have noted I can seem withdrawn and/or somewhat oblivious to the happenings around me. I read a post on Yvain's LiveJournal that suggested 3 drinks a week was probably good for one's health (not that the following applies to me, but I feel I should also note that later JohnMaxwellIV posted a link to a paper saying the average health gains for women were cancelled out by increased breast cancer risk), so I bought a 6-pack of beer and set alarms on my phone to remind me 3 nights a week to drink one, but the beer just sat in my fridge for months as, even with the alarms, I was never motivated to drink them.

As for some other flavor preferences: I loved green olives as a kid and still quite like black olives on pizzas and submarine sandwiches. I don't drink coffee, though it's one of my favorite ice cream flavors. I also enjoy foods that are decently spicy (at asian restaurants, I've found that requesting the spiciness of dishes to be a 7 on a 10-point scale to usually be pretty safe bet).

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-21T00:10:08.125Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

if I requested a spicy dish to be any number on a scale I would be requesting nothing higher than a 3.

You can make the beer into beer-bread. (uses the bubbles and yeast in the beer to make the bread rise)

you are at least the second person to comment on not liking coffee but liking it as an icecream flavour.

I have noticed the pro-social effects of alcohol but they can be faked by: a. remembering the feeling b. asking yourself the question, "what do I want to know about this person?" and "what do I want to share about myself with this person?" whenever you want to talk to someone. (whats your name, how old are you, where are you from, what do you do, what do you think about X topic...)

comment by djm · 2015-04-17T04:44:12.175Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I love the taste of bitter flavors - beer, coffee, olives, etc but not strong alcohol.

I also love spicy foods / curries - for those with low tolerance of bitter flavours, do you avoid these foods as well?

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-20T23:56:03.388Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I avoid all spicy foods; chilli, curry, I don't like horseraddish.

I like wasabi in limited doses (even though its similar in taste to horseraddish). Mainly because it goes away after a moment.

You will have to ask others as well...

Replies from: Lumifer
comment by Lumifer · 2015-04-21T00:34:39.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In Japan wasabi used to be a different plant, but in the West almost all wasabi is horseradish with green food coloring.

comment by Bugmaster · 2015-04-17T04:42:21.279Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like the taste of some alcoholic beverages; but, for some weird reason, being drunk makes me feel quite dizzy -- and that's it. There are no positive effects: no social disinhibition (as far as I can tell, anyway), no warm fuzzy feelings, just dizziness. For this reason, I tend to drink rarely, and little.

Edit: I love olives, FWIW.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-20T23:59:15.803Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can measure my intoxication by the rate of dizzyness. anywhere from slight unsteadyness to eventually everything spins enough that its difficult to stand up because the only thing not moving is the flat floor beneath me. I recently observed someone maintain sobreity on beers for several hours and then switch to rum&coke and become slurry and have difficulty walking within 30mins (cumulative effects aside). I suspect that different alcohol has different specific effects on people.

Other alcohols might not make you so dizzy but might give you the "expected social buzz". If you feel like giving it a try and letting us know? (on the condition that you shout "FOR SCIENCE" as you drink...

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-04-17T02:43:41.713Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have much less tolerance for bitter flavors than most people, but more tolerance than the people who really hate it. I consider myself a sub-supertaster.

My tolerance for bitter flavors has increased to the point where I can enjoy the occasional olive, but I don't seek them out. I don't like grapefruit. I've given up on coffee because I have to doctor it with a lot of milk and sugar to make it palatable, and then I get an upset stomach, though there might be something else going on, since I love coffee ice cream.

Anyway, alcohol. I have a low tolerance for the taste, though some drinks are interesting enough that I'll sip small quantities. One time when I was stressed, I drank a whole glass of white wine as though it was water. That was a seriously weird experience, and I don't expect it to happen again.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-20T23:52:53.317Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wouldn't put grapefruit in the same area as bitter flavours because of the sourness. I can taste the bitterness in it, but its more like a bitter-er lemon to me.

comment by SilentCal · 2015-04-24T23:01:10.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am a moderate but regular drinker. I have a substantial liquor collection and a strong interest in cocktails, as well as beer and wine.

The top conscious motivation for my drinking is exploration of taste, and I usually don't drink to substantial impairment. I suspect the unconscious motives are substantial, but that they have less to do with intoxication and much to do with signalling. That is, I've internalized the idea that appreciating the taste of alcoholic beverages is sophisticated to the point that it doesn't feel like signalling, it just feels pursuing something inherently interesting. (I also like tasting various teas and coffees.) I have no desire to break this habit, as a) light-to-moderate drinking appears neutral or positive for health and b) given my cultural position it's probably a cheaper hobby that anything I'm likely to replace it with.

There's also a sense of relaxation to drinking. It's not the literal intoxication, as I feel it before I even take a sip. I think it has to do with an association of drinking with recreation and relaxation--like a classic diminished-alertness-as-signal, but to myself.

Though I should say that I do sometimes enjoy the buzz--it can seem to put me in a more spontaneous, moment-focused mood, ideal for time devoted to fun. This does sometimes lead to snowballing where drinking more makes me want to drink more, until I've had quite a bit; this has occurred with diminishing frequency since the end of college. If you're wondering whether to count me as a heavy drinker, I've probably drank heavily like this once in the last six months.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-04-23T01:38:39.697Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I almost exclusively drink in social situations. It can range from having a few beers with friends to drinking heavily at a gathering. Every now and then (once a month or so) I'll get a bottle of wine, which I do drink by myself. I do have a tendency towards excess, especially when it comes to liquor (in the sense that I'll often drink far more than my friends). I have some heavy drinkers in the family and when I go to visit them I'll drink much more than I usually do.

In terms of frequency, I might have a few beers two or three times in a month and I'll maybe get thoroughly drunk four or five times in a year.

I enjoy the taste of a variety of beers, wines, and the occasional mixed drink (usually White Russians). Junior year of college I'd resolved that I'd rather not drink at all than drink cheap piss-water. I like to peruse the liquor store for drinks or brands I haven't tried yet and try those at casual social events. I find myself much more talkative and social after several drinks.

comment by erratio · 2015-04-17T02:52:13.010Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My experience is exactly the same as yours. I'm slowly training myself to be able to tolerate alcohol that's slightly less sweet/more concentrated, but it's very slow going.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-20T23:53:58.816Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I considered that; and I am more tolerant than I was before, but I kinda realised that maybe becoming tolerant of alcohol means killing my tastebuds and numbing my taste sense. and I would rather not do that.

comment by SanguineEmpiricist · 2015-04-20T01:13:36.415Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would immediately disbelieve what nerdy people say about social situations especially alcohol most people use proxy plausible excuses to hide social fear. Considering I have actually met a large quantity of people who participate in this sort of stuff I would favor my conclusion to a large degree and override any soft discussion on "bitterness" or "taste".

However if this isn't the case then carry on. I predict that a lot of people will just argue with me for no reason about this even though I am correct for probably the majority of participants in this discussion. If you are one of those people you need to break out of your shell, passivity is harmful for personality development.

Replies from: Elo
comment by Elo · 2015-04-20T23:46:09.260Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

my interpretation of your post seems to go:

you are wrong

you have social fear and thats your problem

I have more experience therefore you are wrong

even if you say I am wrong you are wrong

everyone is wrong and needs to get out more


now I assume what you meant to say was:

antisocial people have little experience in social situations and their experience cannot be relied upon

in my experience, not liking alcohol is a bad excuse to not be social

there are many benefits to being social and getting out more, and I would encourage everyone to do it


the first one sounds rude and unhelpful, the second one is more helpful.

My hypothesis was: "people taste differently and therefore liking and disliking alcohol is:

  1. less of a big deal around people who understand this
  2. subject to complex human experience"

I was looking for other people's experience on the matter because I have come to terms with my not-drinking in social situations and stumbled upon a reasonable explanation and others might find that helpful to have.

generally - things tasting bad is a very good reason to not taste them as often as things that taste good. (subject to health reasons)

I am a super-social person and alcohol does not get in my way, what gets in my way more is deciding how to buy a round of drinks for people correctly in a social situation when I am not drinking. (I often drive which does not help)

(Sorry: edits for formatting)