Why Do Drinks Taste Better With a Straw? Science Has the Answer

You're not imagining things—drinks really do taste better with a straw. It has to do with taste and temperature.

Though many brands have taken steps to eliminate plastic, including straws, you’ll probably still catch yourself sipping a cold drink out of a straw every now and then. It’s bound to happen! In fact, there’s something about drinking a cold beverage through a straw that makes it taste even better. Here’s the simple explanation behind this phenomenon.

First, How Does Taste Work?

Contrary to what we learned in elementary school, the tongue senses much more than sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Your taste buds are sensitive! And because taste works hand in hand with our sense of smell, humans pick up a lot more than we may think.

When we take a sip of something, the receptors in our nose pick up volatile organic compounds. These compounds, known as VOCs, lead the way in producing aromas—the strong scents we associate with food and drink. As aromas intensify (and they will with heat), more definitive, complex tastes are perceived on the tongue. Yum!

This is why tomato juice tastes better on planes.

Why Do Drinks Taste Better with a Straw?

The key here is temperature. Let’s think about a milkshake—cold, right? If you’re not sipping it through a straw, you’ll likely get a mouthful of chilled ice cream and a brain freeze, and it’s probably not going to taste much like chocolate or vanilla. In this instance, your mouth is overwhelmed by the cold temperature of the shake, slowing down the process of VOCs getting picked up by the receptors in your nose.

Take one sip with a straw and that all changes. The amount of ice cream in your mouth is smaller, giving it more room to heat up, melt and send VOCs straight to the nose. The result is a sweet and tasty milkshake. It’s time to test this science with our milkshake recipes!

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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.