Looking for a love potion, hmm?
Aphrodisiac drinks can be a fun cocktail or menu item to include on special occasions. Whether you're making fall cocktails or spring cocktails, you can make these types of drinks for any season.
Because there are actually scientifically-validated aphrodisiacs out there. And you can integrate them into cocktail recipes and label them aphrodisiac drinks.
They’re not exactly the drinks every bartender should know, but they do exist.
Are they love potions? No.
But at-home bartenders and pro bar managers alike can responsibly leverage this playful approach to mixology to great effect, too. Because most people are romantics at heart, and a little menu engineering that leans into that is always effective.
Below, learn about what aphrodisiacs are and how to integrate them into your mixology to create aphrodisiac drinks.
What Is an Aphrodisiac?: Aphrodisiac Meaning
An aphrodisiac is any substance that increases sexual desire and sexual pleasure. The substance can be plant, animal, or mineral and range from spices to foods and synthetic chemicals. The most common methods of aphrodisiac consumption are eating and drinking, though olfactory (scent) and aural (sound) apply as well.
The word is, of course, derived from the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.
Ok, then. That’s all well and good. But how on earth does it work? What sort of sorcery is it?
Well, let’s look into the aphrodisiac effect.
Aphrodisiac Effect: What Is Aphrodisiac Effect?
It’s self-evident that the things we consume—which are themselves chemical compounds, because everything is—affect the balance of chemicals in our bodies.
The aphrodisiac effect, then, is the catch-all phrase used for the varied collection of these neurochemical changes that energize or improve sexual function. And these improvements are typically divided into libido, potency, and pleasure.
There are numerous different ways in which the body’s chemicals can be adjusted to enhance one of these areas. Some increase production of pituitary hormones, others enhance testosterone production. Still others act on serotonin productions and reception or enhance sensitivity through nitric oxide synthesis.
In other words, it gets complicated. And while many substances are thought to be aphrodisiacs, only a handful have proven pharmacological effects on living beings.
That doesn’t mean the foods and drinks thought to be aphrodisiacs aren’t. It just means there’s no scientific validation for it.
Below are some easily-obtainable substances both proven and thought to be aphrodisiacs.
Here are four scientifically-proven aphrodisiacs:
- Saffron, also called crocus sativus, has a long history of aphrodisiac use in traditional medicine. It has been found to consistently increase the frequency of sexual behavior in rats.
- The dried kernel of myristica fragrans, or nutmeg, were found to increase the mating performance of mice.
- The sweet, edible fruit of the date palm has historically been used to treat male infertility. It has been found to increase sperm count and DNA quality in adult male rats.
- Panax ginseng has a reputation as one of the most potent aphrodisiacs in the world. And for good reason. It’s shown to consistently stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter responsible for inducing penile erection in rabbits.
If your goal is to create some easy drinks, work some mixological magic with the cocktail ingredients above.
Here are foods traditionally thought to be aphrodisiacs:
Do the above actually work? It’s not proven. But they all have a very … passionate reputation. And, hey, placebo’s work half the time.
What Is an Aphrodisiac Restaurant?
An aphrodisiac restaurant is a restaurant with a cuisine focused on integrating known or believed aphrodisiacs into their menu.
How many of these restaurants are there? Not many. In fact, most aphrodisiac restaurants are just regular restaurants that temporarily offer an aphrodisiac-inspired menu.
What Is the Most Powerful Aphrodisiac?
Because the chemistry of aphrodisiac effects vary, there is no “most powerful” aphrodisiac. Though, according to the Pharmcognosy Review above, the Nigerian shrub fadogia agrestis “showed a significant increase” in a variety of sexual behavior in animal tests. And it, therefore, has “significant aphrodisiac potential.” We can safely consider this plucky little shrub one of the most powerful scientifically-validated aphrodisiacs.
Though, if you’re looking for something easily obtainable that fits neatly in cocktail recipes, saffron, nutmeg, and dates are better bets.
Is Wine An Aphrodisiac? Aphrodisiac Wine
Wine is typically considered an aphrodisiac, even when it's part of a lamb wine pairing. There are no scientific studies on neurochemical effects, like above. But anecdotal evidence for wine as an aphrodisiac exists. That's one of the things that keep a wine negociant employed. If you're looking into buying a winery you might find this info interesting to share at tastings.
Is Red Wine an Aphrodisiac?
Yes, red wine is often considered an aphrodisiac.
A 2009 Italian study found that regular intake of a moderate amount of red wine is associated with survey answers that indicate higher sexual desire and function in women. Note that this is based on a self-assessment survey, which makes it compelling evidence but not pharmacological proof.
The above study surveyed red-wine drinkers, though. What about white wine?
Is White Wine An Aphrodisiac?
White wine does not seem to have the same aphrodisiac effect as red wine.
It’s likely because of the presence of resveratrol in red wine, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s known to increase blood flow, which can have an aphrodisiac effect on people.
Resveratrol comes from the skin of grapes and is therefore in red wine in much higher concentrations than it is in white wine. See our tannins in wine or best wine books post for more information about the winemaking process. You can also learn about the calories in wine and how much sugar in wine.
So what about other types of liquor?
Is there an aphrodisiac liquor? Not in the traditional sense. Liquor by itself isn’t an aphrodisiac. But it does dramatically decrease inhibitions. And that can certainly enhance sexual desire and performance. Along with being a relevant complement to actual aphrodisiacs.
Whether or not an alcohol is aphrodisiac alcohol depends on what the liquor is made with, then. Grain alcohol? Not an aphrodisiac. Vodka infused for weeks with saffron? Likely an aphrodisiac.
Let’s run through the most popular spirits and liquors and see which come closest to aphrodisiac alcohol.
Is Gin an Aphrodisiac
Of all the liquors, gin has the highest aphrodisiac potential. That’s because gin is, by its nature, a neutral spirit infused with botanicals. If any of those botanicals are aphrodisiacs and present in the gin in meaningful concentrations, the gin may have some slight aphrodisiac effects.
Juniper is considered, though not proven, to be an aphrodisiac. It’s known to clean the urinary tract and enhance sexual desire in men. It also happens to be the main ingredient in most gins. Though most gins likely do not have enough juniper to activate any aphrodisiac effect.
Is whiskey an aphrodisiac? No. Whiskey is made from fermented grain mash. Neither grain nor alcohol is an aphrodisiac.
Quite the opposite, in fact: Is there anything less sexy than a grain? There is not.
Unless the whiskey is infused with or made with a known aphrodisiac, it is not an aphrodisiac.
Is Absinthe an Aphrodisiac?
In the 19th century, absinthe was one of the first types of alcohol to be marketed aggressively. And a lot of that marketing framed absinthe as an aphrodisiac.
That’s because of the presence of the wormwood extract in early absinthe. Wormwood contains a chemical compound called thujone, which is rumored to have a substantial aphrodisiac effect. Wormwood extract is also what made absinthe hallucinogenic. So hallucinogenic that it’s rumored Van Gogh cut off his ear under the influence of it.
And that’s why there’s no or minuscule amounts of wormwood extract in absinthe today. And billions of ears across the world wiggle in relief.
As such, any absinthe today won’t be an aphrodisiac. Unless you’re particularly affected by its mysterious and alluring reputation.
Is Cognac an Aphrodisiac?
No, Cognac is not an aphrodisiac. Which means Hennessy, a popular Cognac, is also not an aphrodisiac.
Cognac is a type of brandy made from grapes. Neither alcohol nor grapes are aphrodisiacs.
Pick up one of the best bartending books you can, and you can probably create something with Cognac that fits the bill. But on its own, it’s no aphrodisiac.
Is Vodka an Aphrodisiac?
Nope! Vodka is not an aphrodisiac. Unless, of course, it’s infused with known aphrodisiacs like saffron or nutmeg. But on its lonesome, vodka has the chemical complexity of club soda (see what is club soda). Just kidding. But vodka is pretty simple, though. And it doesn’t enhance anything but drunkenness.
Natural Aphrodisiacs Drinks: A Recipe
The best natural aphrodisiac drinks will include substances with proven aphrodisiac effects. There are around 10 of these substances (and many more unproven), but three are especially relevant for mixologists. They are saffron, nutmeg, and dates.
Here is a custom aphrodisiac recipe we put together to get you started. Use the ingredients in this article to gin up your own recipes for aphrodisiac alcoholic beverages. Remember, you can learn how to make bitters using a bitters recipe if you want total control over the ingredients.
Saffron Rosewater Gimlet
The gimlet is one of the most popular cocktails around. We consider the gimlet one of the classic summer cocktails. But this version is classier, deeper, more mysterious. Which makes it a perfect Valentine’s Day treat or tart winter cocktail.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce Rose’s lime juice (or a half ounce lime juice and half ounce simple syrup)
- A dash of bitters (see what are bitters for a primer)
- 1 ounce of saffron-infused rosewater
- Wedge of lime
Infuse saffron in rosewater for at least 6 hours, using a pinch of saffron per ounce of rosewater. Don’t go crazy on the saffron or your pour cost will take a hit. See our pour cost calculator. Add gin, Rose’s, bitters, rosewater, and cracked ice in a shaker and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
Using the tips here, you can make all sorts of alcohol aphrodisiac drinks.
A red wine sangria with dates? Sounds attractive.
A nutmeg-infused gin and tonic? Now we’re talking.
Make sure you get your alcohol pricing right and some of these drinks could be real moneymakers.
Another great way to find which drinks are your most profitable is using perpetual inventory bar management software like BinWise Pro.
By collecting inventory data automatically, and in real time, BinWise gives you access to reams of historical data that help bars and restaurants make the most profitable decisions (and avoid the 86 meaning). You can identify your top sellers, their pour cost, and pricing strategies all quickly and easily in an end-to-end bar inventory app. These apps can also help you avoid discovering what happens when alcohol expires.
Frequently Asked Questions About Aphrodisiac Drinks
The aphrodisiac effect is backed by science and numerous studies. Since everyone’s chemistry is unique, the effects on some people may be different than others. To sum it all up, continue reading for some of the major takeaways about aphrodisiac drinks and food groups.
What Is the Most Aphrodisiac Drink?
Cocktails that contain gin likely offer the strongest aphrodisiac effect. Gin contains a high profile of botanicals, which can attribute to sexual behavior and emotions.
Beer and red wine are also known to be effective aphrodisiac drinks. Studies show tha both types of alcohol attrivute to sexual or relaxed mood changes.
What Is the Best Aphrodisiac?
From herbs to vegetables, there are numerous aphrodisiacs to incorporate into menu items. Some of the best aphrodisiac options to choose from are:
- Ginkgo biloba
- Red ginseng
Do Aphrodisiacs Work?
Various studies show that aphrodisiac drinks and foods can be effective. Everyone can experience different outcomes, so some culinary items may affect some more than others, and vice versa.