A new trend on TikTok promises to reduce the burn and flavor of booze with the addition of a bit of baking soda and a pinch of salt. The hack claims to neutralize the taste of clear alcohol, making mixed drinks more quaffable.
But can science back up the trend? To get to the bottom of the viral hack that’s taking the internet by storm, we chatted with drinks scientist Dave Arnold.
“I’m against the whole theory of why you’d want to accomplish this,” Arnold says. His reasoning is that while the trick may be useful to those who are averse to the taste of hard liquor, it also promotes overconsumption by promising to make cocktails all-too-easy to drink.
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But when probed about whether there’s any validity to the technique to begin with, motives aside? Arnold’s not so sure. “It may just be that they’re just not offended by the horrible taste of baking soda,” he says. “It’s going to give it a little bit of a soapy taste; maybe that reduces the perception of the alcohol.”
As for scientific evidence backing up the trick, Arnold says that there is research that shows baking soda to be effective at masking the flavor of some bitter drugs. “Sodium bicarbonate, especially when it’s allowed to stay in its alkaline regime, appears to be used by some people to mask certain flavors,” he says, adding that salt has been historically used in the same way.
@vinepair Not vibing with the baking soda hack #vinepair #drinkingisculture #bakingsoda #bakingsodahack #drinkhacks #lifehacks ♬ original sound – VinePair
Perhaps unsurprisingly, scientists have yet to specifically research baking soda’s effects on booze, but Arnold imagines its basic pH could mask the bitterness of alcohol as well — as long as your cocktail doesn’t include lemon or lime juice. “The kid that I watched [on TikTok] didn’t put any citrus in his horrible vodka soda,” he says, explaining that doing so would,of course, neutralize the baking soda by bringing down its pH.
“If you’re asking me to guess,” he says, “I would say that the salt is there as both a flavor enhancer and also to mutate the flavor. The bicarbonate is there to make it more basic, and perhaps to fool you with something that’s a different kind of disgusting.” Arnold also believes that the addition of baking soda would alter the mouthfeel of a cocktail, making it feel more slippery on the tongue.
Regardless of your tolerance for baking soda’s flavor, though, Arnold ultimately says he can’t suggest trying this stunt at home. “The best way to make the cocktail ‘not burn’ is to just drink a better cocktail.”