Sex with a straw
Mix your own aphrodisiac at the Museum of Sex's new Oralfix caf.
Mon Aug 23 2010
Take a little mango flavoring for virility, mix in a dash of coffee for stamina, and top it off with basil dust for lust. It's aphrodisiacs all the way at the new cafe at the Museum of Sex—you weren't expecting soggy tuna wraps, were you?
There are 3,000 years of folklore represented on the menu of Oralfix, a basement eatery that sits directly below where the museum's gift shop sells tuning-fork dildos and prostate massagers. Equal parts apothecary and soda shop, the cafe boasts a tiled counter lined with colorful bottles, filled with flavors to help you get it on. Salts and other solids are stored in petri dishes (remember those from bio class?).
"It's about where science and folklore cross over," says Museum of Sex creative director Mark Snyder, who likens the space to an exhibition. The experience is as educational as the "Sex Lives of Animals" show upstairs, thanks to decorative cards that explain that the cardamom you're tasting was prescribed in a 15th-century Arabic sex manual.
In contrast to the pharmacy-inspired counter, the black workbench seating disappears into the dim lights, which themselves look something like electrified test tubes. The room's brick walls and arches inspired Oralfix's feel of a mad scientist's love den, and the museum hopes to open a full-fledged bar in a future expansion. But there's no booze yet; natural stimulants like kafir lime leaves (said to be cleansing) and hibiscus (which boosts romance) do the job themselves.
Fizzy beverages ($4.50), mixed to order and labeled "potions," claim center stage at Oralfix. Each is a blend of three or more ingredients with aphrodisiac properties, topped with soda. Crumbled around the rim are the likes of honey crystals or violet rock salt, while some come garnished with swizzle sticks or herb sprigs.
Select from the potions menu, or dare to mix your own, combining, say, libido (chocolate) with fertility (almond). "Short of snorting, we let people do anything with the ingredients," says Snyder. There are even sexy symbols of a less romantic nature, like gold dust, should your love be of a practical sort. Most of the ingredients are sourced locally, though the Madagascar vanilla beans are procured at upwards of $150 per pound.
The Oralfix food menu includes fig-and-prosciutto nibbles ($6), the reliably erotic riff on pain au chocolat ($5) and a libido-enhancing horny-goat-weed ice pop ($1.25). However, "the food is pretty minimalistic," says creating chef Kevin Pomplun of barbecue truck Picknick. "It's not a full-blown restaurant; the emphasis is on elixirs."
While the history of more than 30 cultures was mined for Viagra stand-ins, not every known aphrodisiac is on offer at Oralfix. "Obviously we're not going to sell white tiger penis," says Snyder. Emilie Baltz of consulting firm Fork and Design says that potentially lethal ingredients were also a no-go: "There are some things, like beetles you grind up, that get into the druggy, hallucinatory world, which would have been amazing but we decided to shy away from," she says. "You can get a lot of delicious effects here, but you're not going to get anything that kills you."
233 Fifth Ave at 27th St (212-689-6337, museumofsex.com). Mon--Thu, Sun 10am--8pm; Fri and Sat 10am--9pm.
Elixir: Inspires productivity and passion with a blend of pomegranate—native to Persia and popular with baby-crazy women in ancient China—and mango, an Indian symbol of virility.
Tastes like: It's a more civilized and hangover-free version of a sex on the beach, and is especially tasty due to the rim of crunchy violet.
Elixir: Rose, which dates back to Roman orgies, meets citrusyJapanese yuzu, which promotesrelaxation in traditional hot baths.
Tastes like: The floral blast is about as sexy as a garden party with your grandma, but a crystallized rosemary spear adds refreshingly herbal tingle.
Elixir: Meant to incite excitement and joy, a saffron swizzle stick stirs a mix of cinnamon and cardamom in soda.
Tastes like: More interesting than you ever expected a soda to taste, this toasty combo keeps you coming back for more, like the very best first date.—AW