Understanding 5 basic tastes sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami

Taste is the most important component when experiencing or creating cocktail. So it’s important to understand 5 basic tastes sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami each of them individually but as well how they influence each other and how they are able to synergize in a cocktail.

So for example when creating a sour cocktail sugar helps to balance it out but sugar and salt together have much larger effect.    

Sourness and bitterness are supressed significantly, sweetness slightly and salt is barely detectable in a cocktail.


One of the most important of the five tastes providing viscosity, mouthfeel and enabling to move smoothly through the whole tasting experience. There are traditional sweet components in a drink such as Syrups and Liqueurs.


Sourness is essential for maintaining balance and adding freshness to your drink but acidic components might sometimes overwhelm and mute other elements in a drink. Classic sour taste traditionally comes from citrus fruits  such as lemon, limes, grapefruits, oranges but as well less known other fruits.


Bitterness is considered unpleasant for some people but dash of bitters helps to round out drink and can make a difference between two dimensional drink and pretty outstanding one by adding complexity and length.  Bitters are used usually in a small amount and are known as well as Amari.


Salt is universally recognised to improve flavour when used in the right quantities and provides additional dimension to your drink without being noticeable. Salt does amazing job to cut bitterness and softening acidity slightly. Saltiness can be added to any drink by good quality sea salt or other salty ingredients such as bacon.


The most recent addition to the tastes and providing touch of savoury to your cocktails. Umami is quite distinct from saltiness with different mouthfeel and flavour profile. In small quantities it can enhance certain types of drinks especially the smoky ones. Umami flavour can be found in tomatoes, dried mushrooms, cheese, soy sauce.

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