Challenging Your Palate: Trying New Liquors as You Grow Older

Older Woman Spiking Tea with AlcoholIt’s been said there are only two things in life that are guaranteed: death and taxes. While that may be true, something that’s pretty common to most people is a palate that changes with age. Challenging your palate by trying new liquors is one way to help keep things exciting as you grow older.

One of the thrills of being an adult beverage connoisseur is tasting new flavors and combining ones you’re already familiar with. Sticking with the same old Bloody Mary for 40 to 50 years is like eating nothing but chipped steaks and boiled potatoes until the day you die. Trust us when we say there’s more to life.

Don’t Be a Scaredy Cat

Back in 2008, Today’s Dietitian Magazine asked the question of why it is people tend to prefer the flavor of junk food rather than good fruits and vegetables. Their research turned up a couple of interesting things, including the fact that we basically train our taste buds by what we eat.

In other words, if you’re the kind of drinker whose budgetary constraints led to purchasing a lot of cheap, watered-down beer during your college years, then you’ve probably developed a taste for that stuff. The thought of a good sangria probably says “sissy drink” to you.

The good news is that anyone can retrain his or her palate by simply making different choices. So perhaps you have to be a sissy for a while until your taste buds can really appreciate that sangria. Once you successfully get away from the cheap beer and into some real adult beverages your taste buds will go wild.

That being said, it’s important to make it clear what we’re talking about before we go any further. Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary clearly defines “liquor” as a beverage that is distilled rather than formulated. Liquor would include things like whiskey and moonshine, not wine coolers and prissy, flavored beers now being sold in New York nightclubs with obscure names.

Please Start Slowly

You know how you’ve seen those warnings about “not trying this stuff at home?” We’d like to offer a similar caution―If you’re ready to challenge your palate, please start slowly or you may scare yourself off before you get to the really good stuff. We have three suggestions to get you going.

If you’ve never tried any sort of liquor at all we suggest perhaps getting your feet wet, figuratively speaking of course, with vodka. But this comes with a caveat: vodka in the United States need only be 30% alcohol by volume; that’s not necessarily the case with vodka from Russia and other places. It can be strong stuff, so use it responsibly. We suggest starting with vodka because it’s smooth, easy to drink, and can be found in a variety of flavors.

Gin is another one for beginners. Although there are four classifications, most involve the flavor of juniper berries as a major component. A good gin has a slightly sweet but piney flavor. If it’s is too strong for starters you can always add some tonic water.

Our third starter liquor comes by way of any one of the dozens of popular liqueurs out there. A liqueur is not the same as liquor, by the way. It is a distilled alcohol with specific flavors like fruits, nuts, and flowers, not allowed to age. This makes it on the gentler side of alcoholic drinks. Schnapps is an example of a well-known liqueur.

The “Big Boy” Drinks

When you’re ready to put on your “big boy” pants, there are some very tasty and potent liquors ready and waiting for your attention. Just be careful not to let the grandkids see these in the liquor cabinet, lest there be too many questions.

For starters, we’d like to recommend the favorite of pirates the world over: Rum. In particular, we would recommend a product from Goslings, a Bermuda company with a history of more than 200 years in the business. According to, their Black Seal rum is akin to Bermuda’s national drink.

If you’re feeling especially courageous, you might consider absinthe. This anise-flavored drink is especially potent, with an average alcohol volume of about 75%. For quite a while it was outlawed around the world due to misconceptions about its alleged hallucinogenic effects.

Well-known artists like Vincent van Gogh and Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec loved the stuff. If you’ve ever seen their art then you might be likely to believe they had one too many shots of absinthe. Perhaps that explains van Gogh’s whole “cutting off the ear” thing.

Lastly, if you like sugar, you’ll probably enjoy a Brazilian liquor known as Cachaça. It’s distinctly different from rum thanks to the fact that it’s made directly from sugarcane juice, whereas rum comes from molasses. That gives Cachaça a very unique flavor.

Now that we’ve given you some ideas, it’s your turn to go out and try some of them. Whatever you do, remember a few simple rules: don’t be afraid to try new things, have fun, and drink responsibly at all times. There’s plenty of good stuff out there to challenge your palate no matter how old you are.