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Fingertip Drug Analysis

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"Yeah, that's hellfire all right."

The detectives have raided a house and found some suspicious white powder or liquid. One of them puts his or her finger in it, then either sniffs it or tastes it. They pronounce it's heroin or cocaine or whatever. Or if it's phony drugs, they announce "Powdered sugar!"

Also done by drug-dealing baddies.

Seen in almost every 1970s Cop Show.

The mysterious white powder (almost) never, ever, ever turns out to be a deadly poison or corrosive chemical that kills or maims our hero outright, despite the fact that he's found some powdered substance, doesn't know what it is, and is stupid enough to put it directly in his mouth. Even if it isn't poison, the amount of powder the hero tastes could very easily be far more than his system could handle.

This is Truth in Television to the extent that certain drugs (opium, for example) have a distinctive taste or odor. Cocaine can similarly be identified not by taste, but by the way it instantly numbs where it touches.note  However, any modern police lab is loaded with all kinds of test equipment for just this kind of thing. Without it, it's just a cop's word on the stand. (And how reliable would that word be if they just deliberately ingested something mind-altering?) But if a chemical reaction proves it's really drugs, it's a lot harder for a lawyer to disprove, and a lot safer for the cop (see the Real Life entries). Not to mention the fact that a police officer could get in serious trouble if they were tested and found to have a drug in their system. At the very least, a cop doing this can expect Da Chief to deliver an ass-chewing for contaminating a crime scene.

If the substance is blood, you're performing The Ketchup Test. For any case of testing mysterious substances by taste or smell see Sniff Sniff Nom.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Every time powder-form drugs turn up in Case Closed, Conan verifies its identity by tasting it. (And he really shouldn't be that cavalier about putting strange substances in his mouth, given how many times he's seen victims die to Finger-Licking Poison.)
  • In the anime version of Dominion Tank Police there's a scene where Brenten tastes some mysterious liquid, then is informed a moment too late that it's a urine sample. (The manga had no such gag, but it's exactly the kind of thing Brenten would have done.)
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka needs more than a million yen to pay for a vacation trip and his Dirty Cop buddy Saejima gives him bags of white powder, supposedly cocaine, that are apparently worth millions. Kikuchi immediately pokes his finger in the bags and tastes the powder, and says that it is just ordinary flour. Onizuka is angry at being cheated, but Saejima replies that "I never said it was cocaine! It is good flour! You could sell it to a bakery!"
  • In a chapter of Gokusen, one of the teachers at the school discovers a mysterious pill. The protagonist, a Yakuza Princess grinds it between her fingers and tastes it, to the shock of her colleagues. Seeing their reaction, she claims that it's just an antacid, but identifies it to herself as drugs. Seeing how her Family are Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters who supposedly don't deal drugs, it's kind of odd that she would be able to tell what the substance is/why she would think of doing this.
  • Luffy of One Piece does it once with a strange green powder he found near a hut in the desert. Not so much to identify it than to see if it can be eaten (it can't; it's an alchemical powder used to cause rain). This is because Luffy is perpetually hungry, his first approach to anything new is "Is It Something You Eat?", and he's a moron.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Megumi drops a small packet on the ground when hurrying off to treat Yahiko, who was just poisoned by a ninja. Sanosuke picks up the packet and takes a small taste of the white powder inside. He discovers that it was opium, and angrily questions why she would have this in her possession.
  • Played completely straight in episode 2 of Space Adventure Cobra: The Psychogun where Cobra tastes a vat of some glowing substance the villain has hidden away, and concludes that he is smuggling drugs.
  • Urusei Yatsura: In a late chapter, Shutaro Mendo is trying to show his classmates why they should think that his pool — located next to the beach — is so impressive, and he shows them two cups filled with water (one of them picked from the pool). Ryuunosuke's father dips his forefinger in them, tastes each one, and determines one cup is filled with Japan Sea water and the second is filled with Pacific Ocean water (hence, they are swimming in Japan Sea water as watching the Pacific Ocean, something that Shutaro thinks it is utterly and unspeakably awesome. His classmates disagree...)

    Comic Books 
  • After finding a member of the Gothics dead in an alley in Baker Street #3, Sharon tastes the substance in the tip of the syringe found by the body and identifies it as very pure heroin.
  • Judge Dredd once identified a shipment of illegal sugar by tasting.
  • Alternate History tale Rex Mundi has agents of the Inquisition identify laudanum (liquid opium) this way.
  • In The Sandman (1989), a quite visibly distressed son of a recently deceased immortal mentions that he tried this with a bag of white powder he found in his dad's stuff (along with several blank passports, valuable paintings, and Krugerrands), and that it made his tongue feel numb.
  • Transmetropolitan: Spider does this to the contents of a witness's joint in one issue, being very experienced with drugs of all sorts he is instantly able to identify the specific blend of Fantastic Drugs she crushed up.

    Fan Works 
  • Vow of Nudity: Serris of Tides' hemocraft allows him to identify the racial origin of blood samples by tasting them. He mentions regularly using it at crime scenes or while tracking a suspect, and he uses the ability on Haara to deduce that she has inhuman heritage.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Aaron Loves Angela: One of Beau's buyers dabs some cocaine on his tongue and gums, then yells, "The stuff is shit!"
  • A non-drug variant is Played for Laughs in Baby Mama. A child comes into the house covered in patches of brown goo and her mother asks if it's chocolate or poop. The child proceeds to taste it and reply "that's chocolate". Her sister responds with a disgusted, "What if it were poop?"
  • Accidental in Bedazzled (2000). Elliot decides to taste the strange powdery product in his barn... and sees that it's cocaine. ("¡Es cocaína! ¡COCAÍNA!")
  • Axel does this in Beverly Hills Cop when he searches the warehouse with Jenny and finds the bags of white powder underneath coffee grounds in a crate. It ain't sugar.
  • Spoofed in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day:
    Connor: (tastes the mysterious white powder) That's heroin.
    Murphy: (Beat) How the fuck would you know that?
    Connor: Fuck you! I know shit!
  • Busting: Keneely and Farrel break into crime lord Rizzo's apartment, where Farrel samples a white substance from a bottle and identifies it as baby powder.
  • Spoofed in Charade, when Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant are going through her late husband's luggage to see if they can find something valuable enough for him to have been murdered for. They find a tin of what appears to be tooth powder; at her urging, he does the test... and concludes that either it's peppermint-flavoured heroin or it really is tooth powder.
  • In The Con is On, the fake nun buying the drugs off Harry pokes a hole in the package, dips her finger in, and licks the tip to test the purity.
  • Done to ridiculous extremes in Dolemite, where supposed police officers actually inhale the cocaine they seize, before declaring it "the good stuff all right".
  • In Dominick and Eugene, Guido tricks Nicky into delivering a newspaper with drugs hidden inside. When Gino finds out, he takes the packet out of the newspaper, opens it, and tastes the powder inside.
  • Done in GoodFellas by the narcs when they find the carton of egg-shaped bricks of cocaine.
  • In Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), the gang steal a Cadillac Eldorado that turns out to be filled with packets of white powder. Atlee pokes a hole in one bag and tastes it, then declares it to be heroin.
  • In Thanksgiving, one of the spoof trailers featured in Grindhouse, features two detectives crouching near a decapitated body. One dips his fingers into the pool of red liquid near it, licks his fingers, and declares it to be blood.
  • In the movie version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore does this to some blood that's dripped onto Harry's forehead from the ceiling, but doesn't immediately comment. After he locates Slughorn, he identifies it as dragon's blood (which, as the alchemist who discovered the twenty uses of the substance, makes sense and reveals that it's what made him positive the ransacked house was faked).
  • Actually Played for Drama in It's a Wonderful Life — this is how Mr. Gower realizes that he has accidentally put cyanide in some capsules meant for a sick child. (Which wouldn't have happened if twelve-year-old George Bailey hadn't alerted him to it.)
  • James Bond
  • Gimli does this with orc blood in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
  • Bletch the Walrus does this in Meet the Feebles with a substance that is said to be cocaine. Turns out it's borax. He then proceeds to force-feed the borax to the dealer who sold it to him, killing the dealer.
  • Mitchell does it in Mitchell, when he finds the plastic bags of powder in the old lady's luggage. He coats the tips of two fingers in an absurd amount of the stuff, tastes it, and declares that it's chalk.
    Joel: Geez, Scarface didn't do that much at once!
  • Played for Laughs in Moving Violations. When Deputy hank finds a suspicous white powder on the seat of Dana's truck, he dips his finger in it and sticks it in his mouth. Only after he has done so does Dana inform him that it's guano.
  • Older Than Television: The detective in the bizarre 1916 comedy The Mystery of the Leaping Fish does this to confirm that the crooks he's investigating are smuggling opium. He then proceeds to eat several handfuls of opium.
  • Barbossa does this in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, when he tastes a spring with a dead body floating in it and declares it to be poisoned.
  • Spoofed in The Princess Bride. The Man in Black kills Vizzini with the "odorless, tasteless" deadly poison iocaine. Later, Prince Humperdinck finds the vial which originally held it, sniffs it... and immediately identifies it as iocaine. Though in the book, he identified it as iocaine because of the lack of any odor and the fact that a man obviously was killed by a fast-acting poison beside it. He says "Iocaine, I bet my life on it," meaning he couldn't decidedly identify it, but given the circumstances and evidence, made an educated guess.
  • Subverted in the movie Showtime, which shows an undercover detective verifying a drug buy with a small chemical apparatus, and later, when William Shatner as Himself demonstrates the Fingertip Method, he is met with the question "And what if it was cyanide?"
  • Also spoofed in the Utah film The Singles Ward, when a young woman is arrested for breaking in to what turns out to be her own apartment. A plastic tub full of white powder is handed to the senior partner (played by a Morning Radio Personality), who takes a deep whiff, buries his finger in it, sticks the whole finger in his mouth, and pronounces it "Tide".
  • The buddy-cop movie Tango and Cash opens with Ray Tango arresting two punks, who have driven an oil truck well outside his jurisdiction. The highway patrol arrives on the scene and chides him for his recklessness, and a search of the truck reveals nothing but oil. They ask if he thinks he's Rambo, to which Tango calmly replies, "Rambo... is a pussy" before shooting the bottom half of the oil tanker, revealing a steady stream of white powder. Tango cups his hands under the stream for a few seconds, then licks the resulting pile of powder in his hands.
    Tango: Anybody wanna get high?
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-X analyzes blood samples this way. Unlike a human cop, she's highly unlikely to be poisoned as a result of tasting something nasty. Of course, this was mostly used as an excuse to have the actress suck on her finger, given that it's Kristanna Loken and all.
  • Frank Oz's police officer identifies the drugs planted on Louis Winthorpe in Trading Places as PCP using this method. Which is insane, considering what even a tiny amount of PCP can do. However, since it was a scam and they knew it was fake, it's likely that it was all for show.
  • Young Doctors in Love has a variant, when Dr Ludwig demonstrates this with a patient's urine sample as a way to detect madical conditions, and gets the protagonist, August, to do the same. Subverted when he then reveals he tricked them (the finger he dipped in the sample wasn't the one he put in his mouth) and the whole thing was a lesson in paying attention. Then August points out that if he'd actually tasted the urine, he'd have noticed a sweet taste indicating possible diabetes, which prompts a curious Ludwig to actually taste it for real. And then August reveals that he played the same trick...

  • In the Able Team novel Army of Devils, a cop does this with the "crazy dust" and has to be restrained from attacking his colleagues in Berserker Rage.
  • In Agents of Light and Darkness, John Taylor performs the fingertip touch-and-taste test on a statue, and confirms it's a human who's been transformed into salt. Only in the Nightside...
  • And Then There Were None.
    • The doctor puts a very-very-small amount of a mysterious substance on his finger and tastes it very cautiously. He is instantly able to tell it's cyanide.
    • In the Russian movie adaption he smears a bit of the suspicious liquor on his palms and only sniffs them.
  • The Black Ice: Detective Harry Bosch does this when finding a sack of sugar in Cal Moore's apartment. Turns out it really was sugar.
  • In Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess, Lt. Pruden works out the Syndicate's intentions by testing some heroin like this.
  • In The Course of Honour by Lindsey Davis, a teenaged Vespasian tries it with the drink that just killed his friend Britannicus. It nearly kills him, too.
  • The Curious Misadventures of Feltus Ovalton has Percy about to do this to a packet of concentrated itching powder; fortunately, Feltus stops him.
  • Reina tries this with a spice Mile magically distills in Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?. Given that what Mile had cooked up was crystallized capsaicin, she quickly regrets it.
  • Discworld
    • Spoofed in Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay, where Constable Flint (a troll serving in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch) tastes a mysterious white powder he suspects to be Slab, a troll hallucinogen, and says, "Yes, this is definitely Slab wurble wurble sclup," and has to spend three days tied to his bed until the spiders go away.
    • The same thing happens to Sgt. Detritus later in the book. Ironic especially since Detritus was the one who relayed the fate of Sergeant Flint and stated how dumb it was.
      Detritus blinked at his finger, which was still white with the dust, and sidled over to Carrot. "Did I just lick dis?" he said.
      "Er, yes," said Carrot.
      "T'ank goodness for dat," said Detritus, blinking furiously. "'D hate to believe dis room was
      really full of giant hairy spide... weeble weeble sclup..."
    • Earlier, Vimes found a mysterious bag of white powder in his desk but explicitly refused to taste it, instead asking the on-staff alchemist to see if it was arsenic. Shortly afterwards Carrot did use this method. On a mysterious bag of white powder he'd just seen Vimes stuff a handful from into his mouth. It turned out to be sugar, Vimes having swapped out the bag for one from the canteen.
  • The titular hero of Eragon tries this with a mysterious canteen he finds while tracking the Ra'Zac. It ends up eating through a few layers of skin, though Brom commends him for having the good sense not to try and drink it.
  • Marcus Didius Falco. Petronius kicks a member of his vigiles who's about to do this, as the man they've just found has apparently committed suicide from drinking poison.
  • Mentioned in Stephen Fry's autobiography Moab Is My Washpot, when he recounts the head boy at his prep school catching him with stolen sweets.
    "How many times do I have to tell you," I howled, "I haven't been to the village shop!"
    "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure you haven't. And what have we got here then?"
    If the memory weren't so absurdly anachronistic, I could almost swear that Pollock ripped open one of the flying saucers and put his tongue to the sherbet like a Hollywood cop tasting white powder.
  • In Isaac Asimov's mystery novel Murder at the ABA, the protagonist finds a small pile of white powder in the murder victim's room, tastes it, and recognizes it as heroin. When he tries to report this discovery, the powder is suddenly gone.
  • In The Mysterious Affair at Styles Poirot tests a saucepan of liquid in the room where Mrs. Inglethorpe died of poison this way, he identifies it as cocoa with rum. Later chemical analysis disproves it as the source of the strychnine that killed her but it did have narcotics that delayed the poison.
  • The Scarab Murder Case: Vance uses this to find the opium in Dr. Bliss' coffee. Sergeant Heath packs up the coffee cup for a real analysis (which confirms Vance's taste-test).
  • In Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book story "The King's Ankus", Mowgli discovers some men who have died after eating poisoned bread. One taste (of the bread, not the men) is enough for him to identify the type of poison. Kipling justifies this as necessary for survival in a jungle full of poisonous plants.
  • Serpico. Marijuana is passed around the police recruits so they can identify its "pungent aroma". Meanwhile Serpico overhears a couple of recruits whispering, "This is good shit!" while puffing on the joint.
  • Maureen does this (cautiously) in Robert A. Heinlein's To Sail Beyond the Sunset while searching out-of-control teen daughter Priscilla's room, when she finds a bag of white powder. She concludes it's cocaine from the numbing effect (she did also find what she decided was marijuana). She briefly considers turning the stash over to the police in hopes they'll find her daughter's dealer, but decides it would be pretty close to impossible to convince the police the stash is her daughter's rather than her own, and flushes it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The A-Team episode "Uncle Buckle-up", the team finds bags of a white powder while investigating the warehouse. Hannibal tastes a bit and promptly identifies it as heroin.
  • A variation on the trope occurred on Barney Miller, in "Hash" when Barney suspects some brownies baked by Wojo's girlfriend have hashish in them. He asks Harris to test the brownies, which Harris does... by eating one, rather than sending it to the lab as Barney had expected.
    Barney: NOT THAT WAY! Take it to the lab!
    Harris: I think it's hash, Barn. You know, from the way that I feel.
  • A non-drugs example appears in Black Books. A customer at the bookshop tries to return his holiday read for a refund, but Bernard immediately discovers sand between the pages and sprinkles a little on Manny's tongue, who is able to identify not only the country and region, but the specific beach the sand came from.
  • A twist in Bones. When a street sweeper mulches up the body of the episode, one of the drivers assumes he's being pranked and tastes the "fake" blood to try to determine its contents. His partner vomits.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine, "Greg & Larry": Detective Hitchcock touches and tastes chocolate marks Holt smeared on the hospital sign (as a lead for them to find him). Since he can't have known what it is, Jake Peralta is understandably grossed out that Hitchcock would just put "a hospital thing" in his mouth. Hitchcock later tastes the smear of brown stuff on the car park sign, and even after establishing that it isn't chocolate this time, Hitchcock licks it again.
  • Beckett does the test and finds heroin in Castle. Castle comments on how badass she looked doing it.
  • In the Charlie's Angels episode "Angel Blues," Kris tastes the contents of a packet of "laundry detergent" and says, "It's cocaine. High-grade stuff."
  • Copper: Kevin does this to a fruitcake in "Arsenic and Old Cake": touching the dusting on the cake and then bringing his finger to his mouth as he attempts to determine the source of the poison.
  • Subverted almost every episode of COPS (1989) (well, every episode there's a drug test) with the baggie-test. Portable chemical tests the police have contain reactants that will change color in the presence of the primary component of the drug; if you've gone more than three episodes of that show without seeing the next contestant on "Is It Blue?" at some point, count yourself lucky.
  • CSI:
    • Gill Grissom gets called out on this twice in CSI: early in the show, while trying to understand a woman's disappearance in a supermarket, he finds a yellow smudge on the floor and performs the fingertip dip taste test. Captain Brass, who was hovering nearby, winces in disgust and goes "Oh, that's sanitary." Luckily for Grissom, it was just mustard. But the second time he does it, much later in the series, it's Catherine who warns him that one of these days he'll really regret doing that.
    • In another episode, in the open field, we see him licking a stone to check whether or not it was a bone fragment (the bone is more porous)
  • At the beginning of the Decoy episode "Dream Fix," a young woman collapses on the sidewalk, clutching a small package in her hand. Casey tastes the contents of the package and says, "Heroin!"
  • Jasper Carrott and Robert Powell taste some white powder in crime-drama spoof The Detectives. Then they taste it again to make sure. Cut to the pair driving down the motorway at approximately 5mph, screaming "Slow down! Slow down!"
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Tenth Doctor developed a bit of a habit of um... licking things. He first does it with blood, even determining the blood group from the taste alone. This habit comes back to bite him when he tastes some sand, only to discover that the "sand" actually consists of pulverized corpses.
    • While less of a habit, the Eleventh Doctor does this as well. With a shed. To calculate how long it's been since it was built. He also sticks grass in his mouth, only to spit it out in disgust.
    • The Thirteenth Doctor also does this, but she skips the fingertips and straight-up eats soil to determine where she's landed (as well as the TripAdvisor ratings of a nearby gift shop). She then continues eating soil. She also offers some to her companions, who politely refuse. Later on, she eats bone dust to determine what century it came from.
  • The Drew Carey Show
    • A version occurs in an episode where Drew is suspected of being a drug addict. The cop assigned to the case goes through his house, finding various evidence that means he could be an addict, and having it explained away by the peculiarities of Drew being Drew. Then he finds the coffee table in the living room covered in white powder.
      Cop: And what's this?
      Drew: It's icing sugar. I have donuts sometimes when I'm watching TV.
      Cop: Come on. You know how many donuts you'd have to eat to make this much — (tastes it) Ah, it's sugar.
    • On another episode, a bag of what appears to be cocaine is found. An employee tastes it and says, "Interesting. I have no idea what cocaine tastes like."
  • Fraser of Due South does this constantly, much to his partner's irritation. Spoofed in one hilarious episode where the villain knows about Fraser's habit and sets a trap for him. Fraser finds a mysterious substance, sniffs and tastes it, looks confused, and keels over.
  • Funky Squad: In "A Shot in the Dark", Cassie identifies some powder found in Ramirez’ office as cocaine by sticking her finger in the bag and then licking it.
  • In an episode of Get Smart, a KAOS agent tries to poison Max with arsenic with a hot dog at a game. Before Max can take a bite, Hymie the android wants to try the hot dog. Reluctantly, Max give Hymie the hot dog. Hymie eats the whole thing and comments on the taste, including that arsenic is a bit bitter.
  • Played for laughs on The Goodies, with smell instead of taste.
    Tim: Hang on a minute—(sniffs)—dang! That's certain substances, that is! How stupid... Graeme, have a sniff of that.
    Graeme: Huh? Oh, that's—(sniffs — collapses, then gets up, looking completely spaced out)—hooh! Where'd you get the stuff, man? Cool, baby, cool...
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Frank does this in Mystery on the Avalanche Express, taste-testing a makeup compact suspected of containing "angel dust, LSD, heroin, or cocaine".
  • In one episode of House, Thirteen does this when trying to track down what their patient's cocaine was cut with. Thirteen has a chronic case of death wish.
  • On The Incredible Hulk (1977) David taste-tested some white powder he found on his foot after transforming back from being the Hulk. (Hulk had rampaged through a warehouse full of drugs.)
  • JAG:
    • A variation in "Sightings". Harm notices a puddle on the tarmac and touches it before rubbing it between his fingers. It's aircraft engine oil. Which wouldn't be weird to find at an abandoned military airfield except that it should have dried up long ago unless a plane was there very recently.
    • In "The Brotherhood", Captain Overton identifies a stash of drugs this way (specifically, he knows it's Crank (crystal meth) rather than Crack (cocaine)). Harm snarks at him, asking how he could know, and Overton explains that he was in a street gang before cleaning up his act and joining the Marines.
  • The Hyde persona in the British series Jekyll identified a soldier's age, diet, and number and breed of pets by smell and was also able to determine that he had cancer, where, and his life expectancy by tasting his sweat.
  • Spoofed in Just Shoot Me!: Jack is about to take a bite of what he thinks is a diet pastry when Nina stops him, tastes the substance on top, and declares it to be "Sugar, pure cane."
  • Averted on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. When Elliot is undercover as a white-collar drug dealer, he "tests the product" of a potential supplier by feeling the powder's consistency. Asked why he doesn't taste it instead, he claims that they do random drug tests at his workplace; he only sells cocaine, he can't risk using it.
  • Deconstructed on Leverage: An old FBI agent was talking about his old cases. A flashback showed his partner working undercover buying drugs from a Dirty Cop. He was about to taste test the drugs when his partner showed up to stop him, having figured out that the cop wasn't just corrupt, he was a psychopath and the drugs were cyanide.
  • Sam Tyler in Life on Mars not only identifies a sample of heroin but can tell from its colour that it's from Turkey... much to the suspicion of his police colleagues, as heroin is a new drug that's barely hit the street in 1973.
    Ray: How do you know so much about it?
    Gene: Because he's on it.
    • This is very anachronistic. Heroin was a major problem as of the turn of the century, much less the 1970s. Heroin just seems to make a comeback every few decades... the 1930s, 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s have all seen big comebacks for heroin.
  • Has appeared a couple of times on Lost in the heroin-related subplots.
  • Lucifer. Lucifer squicks out Detective Chloe by finger-tasting a pool of spilled blood, immediately identifying it as not human (turns out the victim's pet had been killed instead).
  • MacGyver tests a suspected drug sample this way, only to find out that it's keratin (powdered rhino horn).
  • In the Mann & Machine episode "Billion Dollar Baby," Eve tastes a pile of white powder and announces, "It's baby powder!"
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Happy Families", Winter tests a bottle of poison he finds in the kitchen by dipping his finger it and touching it to his tongue. It turns out to be a prop for the murder mystery game that was supposed to be played at the party.
  • The first episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries has Phryne check some white powder with this and determine that it's cocaine. Mac then double checks. Phryne then triple checks.
  • Often done in Mission: Impossible episodes that involve drug dealers, usually by purchasers checking the quality of the drugs (and thus would not care if they got high doing so). At the end of Jim Phelp's introductory episode, this test revealed that the team had swapped a drug wholesaler's entire supply of heroin with powdered milk, causing the wholesaler to be killed by the smaller-scale dealers he was trying to do business with for 'cheating' them.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Although usually portrayed as the smart one, Detective Murdoch does it once with a white powder found at a crime scene. Constable Crabtree gets agitated and warns him that it could be poisonous, but Murdoch tells him it's just plaster.
  • Chief Inspector Japp does this at least twice in Poirot — identifying cocaine in "The Affair at the Victory Ball", and heroin in "Evil Under the Sun".
  • Also spoofed in one episode of Police Squad! — presented with a bag of white powder, Norberg identifies it as a drug from a fingertip taste. Then, while the action continues in the foreground, he takes another fingertip, and another, and then a big fingerload, and starts rubbing it on his gums... When we next see him, he's high as a kite and draped around a piece of furniture.
  • Bodie, Doyle and Cowley regularly do this in seventies action show The Professionals.
  • Discussed in Psych. Shawn and Gus are watching a drug deal. Gus asks if one of the baddies performed this trope. Not only does he taste the drugs, he double dips!
  • In the TV show Sisters, one of the sisters, Teddy, and her boyfriend come across some some drugs hidden in a shipment of clothes from her clothing line. The boyfriend opens one of the packages and tastes the drug. Teddy asks if it's heroin, and he replies he doesn't know, that's just what they do on TV.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: Kirk gives the taste test to a white powder he finds lying about on the "Arena" planet, but in that case it's potassium nitrate.
    • On Deep Space Nine, Sisko once gave Gul'Dukat back a bottle of poisoned wine. Weyoun took a swig and declared it "quite toxic". He then explained that Vorta are immune to most poisons.
  • "Reverend" Jim Ignatowski of Taxi was apparently able to tell that the coca leaves in some cookies baked by Latka came from "Peru... southern Peru, 1974... before the rains."
  • The X-Files: Mulder tests substances with his fingers all the time. He frequently touches some weird substance or its residue, and sometimes he goes that one step up and smells it or licks it as well. In "Eve," he tastes soda (that he suspects is poisoned, which it is, with digitalis) and his tongue goes numb. He performs The Ketchup Test on fake blood in "Revelations." Scully's face is a wonder to behold. From "Squeeze:"
    Scully: Oh my God, Mulder, it's smells like—I think it's bile.
    Mulder: Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior? (hastily shakes goo off)

    Video Games 


    Web Original 
  • Exaggerated in the CollegeHumor sketch Katie Gets Busted, where the police officer that busts Katie for cocaine possession does this to confirm the evidence. When questioned if he has an actual drug kit he does pull one out, but it's just a bowl and spoon to eat the cocaine. Then he asks for a second opinion, who is sampling it from a wine glass, who asks for a third and fourth opinion, who are using the cocaine as seasoning on sweets and meats respectively. Eventually it devolves into the whole squad of policemen just engaging in cocaine induced debauchery.
  • The Mexican streaming series Harina evolved out of an earlier Youtube sketch from the same actors, where El Teniente tastes a package of cocaine and starts getting high on it while vehemently denying it's cocaine so he can take it home.

    Western Animation 
  • A variation appeared in The Amazing Spiez!. The kids are investigating the cocooning of various scientists/important people and while on-site, Marc takes the liberty of performing this trope on the yellow substance used on the victim. His siblings are understandably disgusted and somewhat baffled, but Marc is quick to inform them it's just honey. Now, why The Smart Guy of the team in both this and the above example took the liberty of doing this is unclear.
  • On American Dad!, Steve's high school principal is shockingly good at this, as shown when Francine frames Steve for possessing cocaine.
    Principal Lewis: (does the fingertip taste test) Pure Peruvian marching powder. Grown on the Andes, north slope. I'd say it's about 80% baby laxative. Yep, this junk means only one thing: Esteban Mortilla is back in business!
  • Batman Beyond. It looks like Terry is going to do this, always dipping his finger into strange substances, but really he's using his suit's built-in analyzer.
  • Occurs in Family Guy, when Brian gets a job working as a police dog. He gains a cocaine addiction as a result, which inadvertently shows why Fingertip Drug Analysis is a bad idea.
  • Parodied in Gravity Falls, when Mabel samples the strange substance coating just about everything in an abandoned convenience store.
    Mabel: Yep! It's dust.
  • A weird example from King of the Hill: When Hank suspects Dale topped off his mower's gas tank with water, Bill takes a drink from the fuel line.
    Bill: No, this is soda, Hank. (licks the outside of the tube) That's just grease.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons, when Chief Wiggum does this for no reason to the Mob's farm for rat milk.
    Wiggum: It's pure.
    • In an earlier episode, Mrs. Krabappel takes her car to a mechanic, who tastes the car's gasoline, noting that there's sugar in there.
      Mechanic: "Your ex-husband strikes again!"
    • In "The Yellow Badge of Cowardage", Homer, with help from fireworks manager Giuseppe Granfinali, tries to buy explosives from Cletus; Granfinali tastes the gun powder and finds out it's actually crystal meth.
      Cletus: Crystal meth? Then what the heck did I sell to them Colombian drug lords?!
      (a large explosion occurs in the background)
      Cletus: Brandine, we're feudin' with the Escobars again!
    • In "D'oh-in In the Wind" when all of Springfield went on a hallucinogenic trip from drinking the hippie organic vegetable juice that Homer remade after ruining the original batch. When Officer Lou is hallucinating from his drink, Chief Wiggum tastes it.
      Wiggum: My God, it's nothing but carrots and peyote!
  • In Squidbillies, the Sheriff does this to everything, which gets lampshaded by Denny when he does it to a uranium pile.
  • A variation from Totally Spies! where when the "lava" in a volcano doesn't seem to be as hot as it should be, Sam reaches down and tastes some, revealing it as marinara sauce.

    Real Life 
  • At least one Real Life police officer has been killed by doing this when the white powder turned out to be ricin, one of the top five deadliest poisons in the world.
  • Likewise, when methamphetamines were becoming popular, policy in many jurisdictions was for police officers to fan the air in suspected meth labs towards their noses in order to pick up on the fumes. Given the nature of meth fumes, most of the drug officers in at least one jurisdiction that did this eventually contracted throat and mouth cancer.
  • In chemistry, a brief fanning towards your nose is the recommended procedure if you need to smell something, versus shoving your schnoz directly into the beaker which can deck you. However, this should only be done if you have a reasonable expectation of the chemical, so you know what you're smelling is not (excessively) toxic. Smelling wholly unknown chemicals is like playing Russian Roulette.
  • It's said one of Sherlock Holmes' real life inspirations pulled a trick of this nature. The Professor had two vials of urine, one from a diabetic, and he dips a finger in and tastes it — remarking that the diabetic is sweeter and forcing all the students to repeat it. Then he admonishes them for not paying attention. He had actually dipped in his pointer finger, but sucked on his middle finger. Truth in Television, even without the admonishment. Prior to the development of chemical assays for glucose in urine, doctors really did detect it in this way. The "mellitus" in "diabetes mellitus" means "honey-flavored."
  • "It has to be chlorine". Indeed.
  • Doctors and alchemists in older times often examined stuff by taste and smell — they didn't have much choice, as most of the more sophisticated methods didn't exist yet. This is probably one reason why people who dabbled in alchemy tended to get rather strange later in their lives. Traditional alchemy is absolutely fascinated with mercury, whose fumes are highly toxic and not good for the brain.
  • At least one nineteenth-century scientist insisted upon tasting every substance he discovered, though it was known, even then, to be very dangerous. He was found dead surrounded by dozens of substances, and with no way of knowing which did him in. Another discovered a compound which was absurdly sweet and incredibly tasty. He threw a party in which all the guests joined him in taking shots of the stuff. They were all dead by morning.
    • Lead(II) acetate probably — incredibly tasty, incredibly deadly.
  • Most artificial sweeteners were discovered when chemists noticed that their new chemical tasted incredibly sweet (or more often, failed to wash their hands after handling the chemical and found that everything they touched tasted sweet).
  • The psychedelic properties of LSD were first discovered through something similar to this.
  • The artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda) is made by chlorinating regular sucrose, thus replacing three of the hydroxyl groups with chlorine. This discovery was made possible because someone misheard an instruction from their superior; they thought their boss told them to taste sucrose treated with chlorine, when in actuality they were merely told to test it (this was done while researching sugar-substitute possibilities during the diet craze of The '80s, so it's not as bizarre of a mistake as it initially seems).
  • A group of Darwin Awards almost-winners were stationed in Russia when they discovered a barrel of white powder in storage, which turned out to be thallium, one of the most toxic of all elements.
  • In a very literal version of this trope, some college students developed a type of nail polish that supposedly changes color when exposed to common date rape drugs. The theory is that women are to stir their drinks with their fingers to see if the colors change. note 
  • Most definitely averted with regards to certain high-end opioids such as forms of fentanyl, which can be very dangerous if ingested. Some police officers even claim that skin-contact can cause an overdose, but this is a common misconception.note 
  • In Chile, a security guard at a chemical plant wanted to check if the white powder in a plastic cup was sugar or salt, but it turned out to be Caustic Soda. He suffered severe burns but managed to survive, although for several months he could not eat anything solid. This was a serious case of negligence on the part of the company, since caustic soda should never be placed in a plastic cup, much less without being properly labeled.
  • Selenophenol - quoting the article The chemical literature has numerous examples of people who are at a loss for words when it comes to describing its smell, but their attempts are eloquent all the same.
  • Dimethylcadmium - At any rate, its odor is variously described as "foul", "unpleasant", "metallic", "disagreeable", and (wait for it) "characteristic", which is an adjective that shows up often in the literature with regard to smells, and almost always makes a person want to punch whoever thought it was useful.


Mugato Dung Tasting

Shaxs does this with mugato dung. Repeatedly.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / FingertipDrugAnalysis

Media sources: