Ever notice that weird domino effect on planes, where one person orders tomato juice and suddenly the whole cabin is sucking down Mr. & Mrs. Ts? Well, thanks to modern science, we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that happens because Bloody Marys are, hands down, the best in-flight cocktail.
Exactly how do we know? Because Professor Barry Smith, founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London, says so; and he spent a lot of time "testing"/drinking in-flight beverages. In fact, he's recently published his conclusions -- essentially that tomato juice is the best thing to order at altitude -- in the scholarly journal Flavour.
As you may be aware, not only does cabin pressure affect your palate (by numbing one-third of your taste buds), but engine noise also dulls your senses. Smith theorizes that tomato juice has an umami taste that doesn’t just withstand the effects of altitude, but is enhanced by them. While sweet and salty flavors are difficult to distinguish in the presence of background noise, umami remains unfazed.
“Perhaps all those travelers who order a Bloody Mary after the seatbelt sign has been turned off have figured out intuitively what scientists are only now slowly coming to recognize empirically,” Smith writes, postulating that further research is probably needed. Really? Shocking.
In unrelated news, the tomato juice lobby unequivocally denied providing grant funding to the Centre for the Study of the Senses.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller is Thrillist's German associate travel editor. Her favorite in-flight meal is an Ambien sandwich with red wine. Follow her @Sohostyle