Your beverage Talks

In an earlier article (Sensory Evaluation Basics), I referenced that all of our 5 senses are at play when we look at food and beverages.  These consist of the following:

  • Sight,
  • Hearing,
  • Smell/aroma,
  • Touch or mouthfeel, and
  • Taste.

In this article, I want to focus on a few important points related to hearing and how we look at beverages.  I know that this must sound weird, but we do hear beverages much more than we think.  In fact, to me its one of the most important senses that we use constantly.

How Important is Hearing?

As I write today, I’m listening to cars outside and my dishwasher running.  Hearing makes us aware of our surroundings.  It may be hidden or subconscious, but we need our hearing to help us navigate.  It’s uniquely tied into our daily life, but we hardly give it a second thought.  Here are some examples:

  • Potential Danger – You hear a noise from outside your home which alerts you in the middle of the night.
  • Immersion – You are at the movies and you can hear sounds coming from behind you to immerse you into the scene.
  • Reaction – You hear your dog getting sick somewhere in the house and rush to assist.
  • Relaxation – Jazz music playing while you read.
  • Sadness – A baby crying on the plane a row ahead of you for a 6-hour flight.

Every one of these examples gave you two reactions.  The first one was the sound that the scenario made in your mind.  The second was a quick rush of emotion.  Think about it, you had an emotional reaction thinking about the crying baby.  It may have been sadness for the parents, sympathy for them and the child or dread that you will be stuck in this situation for hours.  In all cases, you had a reaction.  This is important to recognize because we have it with beverages.

The Museum

Years ago, when I was in Las Vegas, I was able to visit the Coca Cola Museum on the Strip.  Ok, I wanted to see what the museum was about, so I paid my money and went looking for the entrance.  To get to the museum, you had to ride an elevator to the top to enter.  BTW, the elevator is in the large Coke Bottle on the exterior of the building (great marketing idea).  Here is the cool part.  While riding in the elevator, your eyes are drawn upwards to large screens showing a glass bottle of Coke being opened with a bottle cap and poured into a glass.  BTW, they have this sound blaring LOUD.  As in, that’s all you hear – the liquid being poured into the glass.

When you reach the top and the door opens, your emotions have taken over.  You feel like its your only mission in life is to find a Coke and drink it.  I’m very serious about this.  I came off the elevator and that was the only thing on my mind, where do I go to get a Coke! 

I thought it was me.  Until I stood off to the side and watched people get off after me with that same look in their eyes.  MUST FIND A BOTTLE OF COKE!!  (Soda everyone…soda).  I want you to try something to see how powerful this is.  I’m going to attach a link below of a Coke bottle being opened and pouring.  I would like for you to play it twice.  The first time just watch the screen and listen.  The second time, turn it up loud, hit play and close your eyes.

The second time you play it, it draws you in and hits your emotions.  You can think of multiple experiences where you have heard this. 

So Why Should You Care?

As a sommelier and beverage lover, everything I do is related to the experience.  I want my customers, family, and friends to understand that this is exceptionally important.  Everything I can do to make the experience better is paramount to me.  Nothing should distract from experiences but only enhance them.  For example, please play the link below:

That is the sound of a cork being extracted from a bottle.  We have all heard it so it’s nothing new.  Until I place it into my perspective.  As a sommelier, I was taught that there should be no sound when I pull a cork from a bottle.  To the point of one of the Guilds that I tested with listed that above linked sound as an Instant Fail if the judges heard it.  There are approximately 23 steps to open a wine bottle formally.  You can do the other 22 perfectly but if you hear that cork sound, INSTANT FAIL!!

The reason why is simple.  If you are out, you have rented the space.  It does not matter if you are at a bar or seated at a table.  My job is to not distract from your experience but enhance it.  While the sound of pulling a cork from a bottle is not that unpleasant, it distracts from the guest’s experience.  If they hear the sound, they have paused and stopped what they are doing.  That is an interruption that is not needed. 

Yes, I have guests that want me to fire the Champagne cork across the room.  Sorry, the cork still comes out without a sound.  Sparkling wine corks hold back a high level of pressure.  Releasing it quickly could cause some of the wine to spill and I do not want to waste it.  It’s also rude to pop a cork around other guests who have rented their space as well (plus dangerous).

I pour water and Iced tea (sorry, Sweet Tea in the South) as quietly as possible so I do not interrupt.  I don’t need to hear the ball of ice hit the glass for my bourbon.  I pour wine to gently hit the glass to make no sound.  Everything I can do to limit distractions is my goal.  It’s the same at home too.  I don’t need to bang my spoon against the side of a glass when I make a Manhattan for myself.

Summary

I’ve listed a few scenarios on the importance of sound and hearing.  Please note that it does affect our experience and emotions in all ways.  From my first cup of tea brewed in my French press to filling my water bottle, hearing helps to create the experience.

Take a moment the next time you see a beverage poured and listen.  You will see the impact it has.  Watching my mom open a can of Pepsi with Real sugar that I must bring to her when I visit is a treat.  Seeing her smile when she hears that solid pop makes me smile.

@artofthepair