The Real Reason You Should Skip TikTok's Latest Liquor Hack

Perhaps for as long as human beings have been consuming alcohol, they have found ways to take the sting out of hard liquor by diluting it with water or mixing in sweetened ingredients like fruit juice. While prepackaged cocktails have been around since the late nineteenth century according to Smithsonian Magazine, so-called ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails emerged in 2021 as the country's fastest-growing spirits category (via CNBC).

The internet is abuzz, however, over a surprising DIY hack that purports to make any type of liquor go down as easily as your favorite RTD beverage or canned cocktail. The trick, shared in a TikTok video that has earned more than 3.4 million likes and 433,900 shares, is to combine your liquor of choice with water, what looks like roughly a half-teaspoon of baking soda, and an eighth-teaspoon of salt. "It goes down like water," according to the user who shared the video.

Speaking to VinePair, drinks scientist Dave Arnold said baking soda — sodium bicarbonate — has been shown to effectively mask some flavors, such as the bitterness of certain drugs, owing to the chemical compound's basic pH. Still, Arnold said, the best way to overcome an aversion to the taste of hard liquor is to just make a better cocktail. Apart from the fact that most people are unlikely to enjoy the flavor of a drink with baking soda and salt, there is a much more important reason not to try TikTok's latest liquor hack, Arnold said.

TikTok's viral liquor hack could promote risky drinking behaviors

The viral TikTok video, which explains how adding small quantities of salt and baking soda can help to mask the taste of hard liquor, came with a warning, "This [hack] makes it a little too easy to drink." Asked by VinePair to share his thoughts on whether the trick is likely to work, drinks scientist Dave Arnold said that the hack raises major red flags about its potential to promote drinking too much.

According to The Atlantic, binge drinking patterns are a periodic part of American culture and data shows the country is now cresting a wave of very heavy drinking. The use of sugary mixers or other methods of diluting the bite of hard liquor has become a significant public health problem for youths, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health that examined the relationships between flavored alcoholic beverages and behaviors among underage drinkers.

Following widespread attention on cases where college-aged drinkers landed in emergency rooms, in 2010 the manufacturer of the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko pledged to reformulate the beverage to remove caffeine, guarana, and taurine (via NPR). Regardless, experts told NPR that the risks associated with excessive drinking among young people have persisted. Either way, if someone is going to try out this TikTok hack, they may want to be careful not to drink too much flavorless liquor.