When the Museum of Sex (MoSex) first opened in 2002 on New York City‘s exclusive Fifth Avenue, TIME columnist Joel Stein said the exhibits were too academic, sucking all of the fun out of sex. Eleven years later, its new upscale bar “Play” is not beating around the bush, and it’s hard not to play a fun game of “How sexual is this?” as you explore the food, drink, and decor.
So post-5 p.m., perhaps after viewing an exhibit on the sex lives of animals, thirsty visitors enter the dimly lit room with purple lighting and make a beeline for the bar, where they order artisanal cocktails with cheeky names, as symbols of the five senses — think nose and tongue — are flashing on a sign overhead.
“I think it’s funny to hear people order, ‘Can I get Loose Women & Pickpockets? Can I get In a Pickle?‘” says bar director Jim Kearns. He named one concoction after celebrity chef Julia Child, combining two of her favorite drinks, sherry and an upside-down martini, and adding celery bitters for a modern twist: “I think she had a really sexual relationship with food and connected to it on a visceral level.”
Other cocktails are inspired by Vladimir Nabokov‘s Lolita (“Clare Quilty”), Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (“Korovazon Milk Punch”), or named after songs by the Beatles (“She’s Leaving Home”) and the Rolling Stones (“Monkey Man”). One named after David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday” is a “popcorn butter washed Buffalo Trace White Dog” whiskey drink with “pharmacy cola syrup” served in a salt-rimmed glass, designed to get a person tipsy enough to make a move during a drive-in movie.
And in case you were wondering, the one most reminiscent of a woman’s breast is “Rosebud,” made with gin or vodka, St. Germain, and rose-infused blanc vermouth, topped with a dried rosebud and served in a peacock feather-patterned martini glass.
None of those evoke sex as literally as “Lickable Skin” (a.k.a. “Pareidolia”) created by Bart Hess, the same artist who designed a black slime costume for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video. The bartender pours a seminal liquid of sake, rhum agricole, and the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu onto a rippled, black plate meant to resemble “alien skin,” and patrons are supposed to lick off the goop — which is about as pleasant as it sounds.
“Eating and drinking are very sexual, and sex is a mouth-oriented act,” the museum’s executive director Daniel Gluck explains to TIME. “And sometimes when we’re really hungry, food tastes better than sex.”
In that spirit, there are a couple of especially suggestive small bites, like the servings of “Beef Tongue” that have a triangular piece of papadam, the razor-thin Indian flatbread, sandwiched between pieces of fried meat and cauliflower the size of a finger tip. And to eat “Octopus Fun Dip,” olive oil-slicked, tubular pieces of octopus are dipped into small bowls with three savory powders — a red, Spanish-style one with paprika, orange, and tomato; a yellow Thai one with coconut, lime, and chili; and a white Greek one with yogurt, lemon and oregano.
On a wall parallel to the bar, a monitor plays Bart Hess videos of a man licking caviar off a camera screen and another man covered in cream being shaved from head to toe. The entrances to the restrooms are lined with phallic Ruby Ball cactus plants, and inside there are handles on the walls for… who knows.
Patrons who are amused (or creeped out) by these motifs — or who just realized that the bar floor is reflective to mimic the idea of looking up women’s skirts — can also sit on the red couches in the front half of the room. Vintage issues of Playboy top coffee tables and bookshelves are lined with The Holy Bible, memoirs of former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill and American Idol judge Simon Cowell, and novels by Danielle Steel, John Grisham, James Patterson, Tom Clancy, and Michael Crichton. Other books have “Vagina”, “BOOOOOOOOOOOOB”, and doodles of stick figures having intercourse annotated on the edges in black marker.
Next, the museum plans to make iPads available at the bar so patrons can watch fetishistic videos of celebrities and firemen stomping on grapes until they are liquified; the “crushed ingredients will be preserved and served” in a cocktail called “Crush Porn.”
What would Lucille Ball think?