North Texas Daily

UNT researchers shed light on Texas vodka

UNT researchers shed light on Texas vodka

UNT researchers shed light on Texas vodka
April 03
01:09 2014

Obed Manuel // Senior Staff Writer

What started as a fun experiment has quickly turned into a possible explanation for the increase in the number of Texas-themed vodka brands, and distilleries, throughout the state.

Chemistry graduate student Timothy Stephens found that the increased amount of dissolved minerals could be the reason why some vodka is more palatable than others.

“When you’re in Texas, you don’t think of Texans and vodka,” Stephens said.

Stephens picked up where retired chemistry professor Diana Mason left off in breaking down the six different vodkas Mason and a group of about 50 individuals taste tested in 2012.

Stephens said he travelled to the Goody Goody Liquor in Lewisville this past January to purchase the different vodkas he would be measuring. He said he was surprised to see that the store was now keeping more Texas brands in stock.

“Back in 2012, they only had six vodkas. Now we’ve got 19 and counting,” Stephens said. “The 19 were only what I could find at the liquor stores here. There are other vodkas, but you have to drive to Houston to get them.”

Mason said the 2012 taste test resulted in many vodkas being compared to other liquors like tequila.

“It’s interesting that so many things are called vodka that may or may not be the classic definition,” Mason said.

Mason said that after doing some biology research, she learned that salt tends to tie up the bitter taste buds on the human tongue.

“Whatever you consume after that initial sip, in the case of vodka, would be more smooth,” Mason said.

Chemistry graduate student Robyn Ford said she helped Mason with the first taste test in 2012. After the tasting, Ford conducted several of the tests on the conductivity of the vodkas.

The conductivity of a vodka depends on the amount of electrolytes in the solution.

“If all vodkas are equal, then they should all taste the same,” Ford said. “I always knew that there was something in them that made them different.”

Ford, a licensed bartender who worked at the Gaylord Texan Resort for about 10 years, said she now sees a correlation between customers’ preferences and the data she collected.

“I remember people talking about how one vodka was smooth and how it went down real well,” Ford said. “Those vodkas would have the higher mineral concentrations.”

Mason, who said she could not disclose specific brand names, said the research revealed that several of the Texas-themed brands the team tested are actually made with ethanol and water from outside of Texas.

“There are vodka distillers that are taking advantage of being in Texas,” Mason said. “What’s the best way to sell something to a Texan? Tell ‘em it’s from Texas.”

Calls made to several distilleries were not returned before date of publication. Other vodka companies denied to comment on the research.

From a scientific perspective, Stephens said the project is not expansive enough to prove a growing trend.

But as a consumer, Stephens said he has learned that a pretty bottle doesn’t mean better taste.

“For the most part, when you’re drinking vodka, you’re not getting anything else. You’re not getting any other flavors in there,” Stephens said.

Feature photo: Chemistry Doctoral student Timothy Stephens and his group found that salty vodka has become most popular in Texas. They presented this finding T the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. Photo by Zixian Chen / Senior Staff Photographer 

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