Having survived a couple of years without catching Covid, I had smugly concluded I must be immune until I finally succumbed. To start with it wasn’t too bad – no worse than a heavy cold – when I suddenly realised it was affecting my tastebuds. White wines were just about OK – as with food, fresh citrussy flavours poked through – but reds, especially oak-aged reds, tasted oddly tarry or bitter. And more subtle ones like Italian reds just didn’t seem to register at all.
With any luck you’ll still be able to pick up basic tastes even if you can’t detect complex flavours. Sourness is the way to go if your tastebuds are compromised – so many drinks have a sour or a sharp element. Think a margarita, a mojito or a whisky sour (though a peaty element might be problematic) and the myriad different gin cocktails that include citrus: the White Lady, Tom Collins and Gimlet to name three. Sour beer should work too as I’m finding hoppy IPAs taste particularly bitter at the moment.
Kombucha, shrubs and switchels and other cider-vinegar-based drinks should appeal if you don’t fancy alcohol for the time being. Even if you don’t normally like vinegar, your atrophied tastebuds will make it taste less tart. There are some excellent suggestions in Mark Diacono’s new book Ferment from Scratch but if you’re feeling too weary to DIY or FYO (ferment your own) you can buy ready-made versions. The turmeric and honey apple cider vinegar shots from cider vinegar specialist Willy’s, whose kombucha I also recommend below, should not only penetrate the fog but are good for you too.
There’s obviously little point in spending a great deal of money on wine at the moment or possibly even drinking what you normally drink. I was surprised to find that the very soft sort of jammy red I’m not normally too keen on tasted more like a beaujolais (which I like).
My sympathies lie with those who have lived with this debilitating condition for months rather than days. Bear in mind the recommendations below worked for me but may not do it for for you at the stage you’re at with this virus, so keep tasting and trying different options. (A smell-training kit helps, according to fellow sufferers who are further down the line than me.) And do share your own experiences below.
Four drinks to try if your tastebuds are battered
Cambalala South African Sauvignon Blanc 2021, 12.5%, £4.95 Aldi. Fresh, clean, citrussy sauvignon at a price which won’t hurt if you still can’t taste too well. Good for the bank holiday too
Andrew Peace Shiraz 2020, 13.5%, £5.50 Co-op. Much sweeter and jammier than the reds I normally like but the fruitiness and lack of tannin made this work for me right now. Worth chilling lightly
Willy’s sparkling apple Kombucha and ACV, on offer at £1.70 in Ocado, £23.40 for 12 from willysacv.com. The freshness of the apple and the tartness of the vinegar really cut through and, along with the slight spritz, makes this a welcomingly refreshing drink