Throughout history, lovers have pined for aphrodisiacs — edible and potable substances believed to activate the libido.
Aphrodisiacs take their name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. From horny goat weed to rhinoceros horn, certain foods are legendary for their sexy qualities, based on their appearance, texture and, somewhat loosely, on their chemical compounds.
While there is little scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of most aphrodisiacs, why tamper with ancient traditions when it comes to enchantment? We need all the love we can get, and most aphrodisiacs are healthful and taste great, to boot.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day — or any day — with an enticing cocktail that makes use of at least one ingredient rumored to boost your libido.
Strawberries are a virtual symbol of the holiday — red, juicy and naturally heart-shaped. Romans considered them a symbol of Venus, goddess of love. Packed with vitamin C, eating them does keep blood flowing to all regions of the body (if you catch our drift). Firepit Pizza Tavern (519 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. 404-995-4777, firepitatl.com) shakes up his and hers strawberry martinis and strawberry Manhattans to go along with a couple of slices.
Saffron is a spice considered sexy in scent, color and flavor. The most expensive spice in the world, it originates in threads from the Crocus sativus flower. Sip the Tehran Mule, a purple flower potion at Rumi’s Kitchen (7105 Avalon Blvd., Alpharetta. 678-534-8855, rumiskitchen.com), in which they mix saffron-infused vodka, ginger beer and lime juice.
Aztec Emperor Montezuma II was said to drink 50 golden goblets per day filled with a chocolate cocktail to increase his virility. Eating chocolate elicits feelings of happiness and excitement, due to the release of endorphins. Theobromine and phenylethylamine — organic components in cacao, from which chocolate comes — boost serotonin, a mood enhancer.
Meanwhile, chile peppers stimulate the nerve endings and create a tingling sensation. The heart beats faster and epinephrine and endorphin levels are activated in the brain. All that blood flow and natural opiates might help arouse passion.
Chocolate and chile team up in the Cocoa Molé cocktail at Southbound (5394 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 678-580-5579, southboundatl.com). The drink mixes together mezcal, creme de cacao, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur and lemon.
Figs long have been prized as a sensual food in many cultures. The fruit is heavily seeded, and therefore associated with the seeds of fertility. Greeks connected them with phallic worship, serving them at Dionysian orgies. Figs also are rich in amino acids, which may increase sex drive. Not only can you read “The Art of War” on the ceiling of Midtown’s 5Church (1197 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. 404-400-3669, 5churchatlanta.com), you can sip a cocktail of the same name. It combines George Dickel rye, fig preserves, brandy, lemon juice and simple syrup for a balanced and boozy sipper with a hint of rustic sweetness.
Bright yellow, like a fuzzy pear with a short neck, quince is one of the lesser known supposed aphrodisiacs. Yet, ancient Greeks included the fruit as a ritual offering at weddings. The newlywed couple would take a ceremonial bite before entering the bridal chamber. Essential oils long have been extracted as a key ingredient in perfumes. The first marmalade was made from quince (the Portuguese word marmelo means quince). Alpharetta’s Restaurant Holmes (50 S. Main St., Alpharetta. 678-691-8320, restaurantholmes.com) makes a slightly tropical concoction called You’re Asking Me to Lie to You, incorporating vodka, quince marmalade, genever and lemon.
Perhaps the best-known dish thought to be an aphrodisiac is the oyster. The mollusk is undeniably sensual, and is tied to Aphrodite, even though Botticelli painted her arising from waves in a scallop — not oyster — shell. Famous 18th century seducer Giacomo Cassanova reportedly ate 50 oysters each morning for breakfast to power up before trysts. The bivalve is a powerhouse of zinc, which boosts testosterone and dopamine, which some say increases the sense of desire. They are not exactly fit for cocktails, but are perfect in a shooter. Six Feet Under (437 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-523-6664; and 685 11th St., Atlanta. 404-810-0040, sixfeetunderatlanta.com) serves three oyster shooters at both of its locations. The pub’s signature, the Six Feet Under, is a vitamin-filled dose of local vodka, house made bloody mary mix and a raw oyster.
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