Why Do Drinks Taste Better with a Straw?

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

While chains like Starbucks have done away with plastic straws, paper and metal straws are still pretty common. There are plenty of alternatives to plastic straws, which means you’ll find yourself sipping a cold drink out of a straw every now and then.

Meaning, don’t forget about straws! 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!

Why Do Drinks Taste Better with a Straw?

Young Asian Woman Drink Coffee Using Metal StrawHxyume/Getty Images

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 may be time to test this science with our milkshake recipes!

Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah loves all things food and trends—especially the combination of the two. As a contributing writer for Taste of Home, she uses her reporting background and digital knowledge to research, write and fact-check articles on popular fast-food chains, new products and TikTok food hacks. Hannah is an experienced content strategist too, which helps her create user-friendly content and check Google’s SEO boxes. When she’s not writing, you can find Hannah cooking some form of chicken or pasta, baking something sweet, cozying up to Gilmore Girls or at Costco buying Liquid IV for her next marathon.