wine being poured over a meal

What Is A Palate Cleanser?

Have you been out to a nice dinner, when suddenly the waiter brings you something you didn’t order? It probably happened to be in between courses? Or perhaps you were brought a beverage to the table that you never asked for, and you weren’t sure why, but you politely accepted. This is what is referred to as a palate cleanser.

Origin of Palate Cleansers

Palate cleansers originate in France but have now been adopted worldwide. It is typically something that is light and refreshing. One of its purposes is to help you slow down between courses or bites.

Some palate cleansers are there to soothe your tongue from spicy food, while others are there to help you differentiate between flavors. All in all, palate cleansers are there to enhance the dining experience and allow you to savor your food instead of rushing through it.

Types of Palate Cleansers

There are a variety of palate cleansers for different types of meals. Depending on the food you are eating, you might get something dissimilar than say the person next to you. Here are some examples of palate cleansers you might come across in your fine dining experiences or at tastings.


The most traditional form of a French palate cleanser is a sorbet. Most often than not, it will be a lemon sorbet, because of its mild and fresh taste. Unlike sherbert or ice cream, sorbet is water-based and contains no dairy. Other flavor options for sorbets include apple and mint. For a sorbet to be considered a palate cleanser, it must not be sweet; instead, it should be crisp and sharp in its flavor.

Palate Cleansers for Cheese

Cheeses usually have a strong flavor, but each cheese is very different from the next when it comes to taste. If you are eating a variety of cheeses, the best way to appreciate each flavor is to have a palate cleanser between each.

Plain Crackers

If the crackers you eat with your cheese are strong in flavor, they will not allow you to taste the true essence of the cheese you’re eating. Having a plain water cracker with each different type of cheese is what will enhance its flavor and allow you to savor it.

Fizzy Water

Sparkling water or fizzy water with a squeeze of lemon or lime helps rinse your palate. The citrus will help sharpen your taste buds and enjoy creamier cheeses such as brie. It helps wash away residual fat left on the tongue and makes each bite fresh.

A Crisp Apple

Often people add grapes or berries to their cheese boards. But, what will actually heighten and cleanse the palate is apples. A crisp apple will pair nicely and complement a bleu cheese.

Pickled Ginger

While ginger initially has a strong and even spicy taste, it helps get rid of potent flavors. Pickled ginger is an especially great palate cleanser when you are eating fish. If you go out for sushi, the small mountain of ginger that you are served is there for you to eat between bites. Having a piece of ginger permits you to appreciate each flavor.

Herbal Teas

When you’ve had very sweet treats or food, a warm herbal tea will diffuse the intense flavor left behind. Herbal tea also helps fade away the taste of a salt heavy meal, keeping an unwanted lingering aftertaste away.

You might have experienced in some restaurants, particularly Chinese restaurants, being served a small cup of tea that continually gets refilled throughout your meal. The tea will help your palate distinguish between the many flavors. Next time you go, don’t skip out on the tea and see how it enhances the taste of your meal.

A Palate Cleanser for Wine

White bread that is of high quality is the most ideal food for cleansing your palate when you are wine tasting. Plain white bread or French bread are both the perfect option. Be sure not to add any kind of spread or oil to the slice. Bread has a very simple taste, which neutralizes your palate and prepares it for the next flavor of wine.

Bread is not the only palate cleanser when having wine however, you can also have small bites of cheese, and some fruits work as well.

Next time you experience a meal with a palate cleanser, make sure to note how much of a difference it’s made. You’ll never leave the sorbet, ginger, or fizzy water for someone else to have.

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