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In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Guinan makes a Tzartak Aperitif, which is described as:

When made properly, the evaporation point of the drink's main ingredient was one-half degree lower than the body temperature of the consumer. Thus, the liquid evaporated immediately after it touched the tongue, and the flavor was carried entirely by the vapors.

Now I know that this drink is completely fictional, but it got me wondering if a similar effect has ever been achieved in the real world?

Are there any (edible) substances, which can be used to create a beverage that evaporates on contact with the consumer's tongue?

And for bonus points, are there any such substances which make a beverage that actually tastes good?

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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In the star trek world you have plenty of beings with body temperatures higher or lower than humans, so if you had a being with a body temp of 79C then ethanol would work out perfectly! However, with humans the liquid which would fit the bill of vaporizing just below body temperature would be Pentane, which not only smells bad but is also toxic. The science behind it is wrong anyway, you'd want a liquid with a much lower vaporization point than body temperature so it would boil off quickly. If you pick a liquid that boils just below body temperature it would take some time to vaporize and you wouldn't have the same effect.

All is not completely lost, you can still have some cool effects with liquids that are safe for consumption. What you have to remember is that the closer a liquid gets to its boiling point the more it evaporates, and any volatiles in it will tend to remained suspended in the vapor and be detectable by the nose. This is the effect you get when you sniff brandy or cognac that has been brought up to body temperature. You can savor it by holding it on the tongue for a few seconds and letting the vapors fill your nasal cavity. So all you need is some strong (at least 80 proof) and flavored (or more accurately scented) alcohol, and the right glasses. Brandy snifters would work best as they are designed to capture the vapors so they can be inhaled. You could then heat the liquid to just above human body temperature and then serve.

Keep the quantities served down unless you want some very drunk guests!

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I like all of the answers, and have voted accordingly. But I have to give this one the acceptance, as it makes an effort to provide real-world achievable approximation. Thanks! –  Flimzy Aug 28 '13 at 18:10
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Diethyl ether has a boiling point just under human body temperature, so theoretically it'd work. However, judging from the smell, the stuff would taste horrible, if you did manage to swallow any, you'd belch uncontrollably, and it'd knock you out quite quickly.

The other option would be to lower the ambient air pressure to something where alcohol boils at around body temperature. With a boiling point of 78.1 °C, perhaps one quarter atmosphere might do it, and might be survivable with enhanced oxygen content. Still, 95% ethanol burns going down as a liquid, and I doubt the gas'd be much better.

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+1 for changing ambient air pressure... never thought I'd see that in a recipe! –  Flimzy Aug 26 '13 at 18:52
    
It should be quite possible to survive at in a pure oxygen atmosphere at as low as 0.2atm or so, I think. But wouldn't ethanol vapor in a pure oxygen atmosphere be rather explosive? That might not end well. –  user5561 Aug 26 '13 at 22:42
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It looks like about 1/8 normal atmosphere (sea level) would be necessary to lower the ethanol boiling point to human body body temperature. tables4ethanol.webs.com/boilingpoint.htm –  Flimzy Aug 28 '13 at 0:17
    
@Flimzy, Thanks. That's slightly below (12.7 vs 16 kPA) the oxygen pressure that's acceptable as a breathing mix en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breathing_gas#Partial_pressure_of_oxygen so you'd probably have to duck into your low pressure chamber, have a 'drink' then pop back out. –  Wayfaring Stranger Aug 28 '13 at 3:58
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There are three main liquids humans can consume without harm: water, ethanol, and certain lipids which are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil or vegetable oil. Any beverage would have to have at least one of those as its bulk ingredient.

None of these evaporate instantly upon contact with the tongue, or at anything like body temperature.

So, no, this is not reasonably possible; it was just fiction.

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The solution lies in superheating the tongue... –  ElendilTheTall Aug 26 '13 at 8:01
    
There are a bunch of lipids too. Or do you consider olive oil more harmful than ethanol? –  Peter Taylor Aug 26 '13 at 10:07
    
Ah, quite true. But none of them are even close to evaporating at body temperature. Will update. I guess I don't think of lipids as "wet". –  SAJ14SAJ Aug 26 '13 at 11:43
    
@SAJ14SAJ There are LOTS of human consumable liquids that are neither water nor ethanol. Sugars (Corn Syrup), acids, esters, glycerol, and it goes on. –  MandoMando Aug 26 '13 at 15:36
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@mandomando Corn syrup is liquid due to water. No sugar is liquid that I am aware of without water. Acids are dissolved in water, or are so strong they are not consumable--even acetic is very dangerous at full strength. If you have an example of a liquid that actually meets the OPs critera, please do provide it. –  SAJ14SAJ Aug 26 '13 at 15:39
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