Background Common inbred mouse strains are genotypically diverse, but it is still poorly understood how this diversity relates to specific differences in behavior. To identify quantitative trait genes that influence taste behavior differences, it is critical to utilize assays that exclusively measure the contribution of orosensory cues. With a few exceptions, previous characterizations of behavioral taste sensitivity in inbred mouse strains have generally measured consumption, which can be confounded by post-ingestive effects. Here, we used a taste-salient brief-access procedure to measure taste sensitivity to eight stimuli characterized as bitter or aversive in C57BL/6J (B6) and DBA/2J (D2) mice. Results B6 mice were more sensitive than D2 mice to a subset of bitter stimuli, including quinine hydrochloride (QHCl), 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP), and MgCl2. D2 mice were more sensitive than B6 mice to the bitter stimulus raffinose undecaacetate (RUA). These strains did not differ in sensitivity to cycloheximide (CYX), denatonium benzoate (DB), KCl or HCl. Conclusion B6-D2 taste sensitivity differences indicate that differences in consumption of QHCl, PROP, MgCl2 and RUA are based on immediate orosensory cues, not post-ingestive effects. The absence of a strain difference for CYX suggests that polymorphisms in a T2R-type taste receptor shown to be differentially sensitive to CYX in vitro are unlikely to differentially contribute to the CYX behavioral response in vivo. The results of these studies point to the utility of these common mouse strains and their associated resources for investigation into the genetic mechanisms of taste.