If you missed the story about the marriage of Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden in the Weekly World News, you probably also missed the report that they adopted a "shaved ape baby". I caught both items while standing in a queue in a supermarket in New York, and believe me, I was sorry not to have found out sooner. This had been a week for all sorts of fascinating revelations, and the nuptial news ranked right up there with the liquid news from London: someone had devised a cocktail with aphrodisiac qualities.
This would hardly rank as major news; for me, at any rate, every good cocktail has aphrodisiac qualities at some point in the evening. But the twist here was a new one: Sex on the Piste, the potion in question, is aimed at the après-ski crowd and designed for use after a hard day on the slopes. Launched at and for last week's Ski & Snowboard Show, it set new records for credulity stretching cocktail mirth.
Mirth in a glass? You bet. IP Bartenders, a corporate cocktail consultancy, has devised a cocktail whose ingredients list deserves a prize for grand-scale silliness: 50g fresh pineapple chunks, 25ml pineapple juice, 50ml vanilla vodka, 25ml gingerbread syrup, 20ml coconut cream, a drop of ginseng and ginkgo biloba, and 40ml single cream. Blend it with crushed ice ("until stiff") and serve in a tall glass.
What I love best about the ingredients, however, is not their weirdness but their supposed libidinally energising powers. Pineapple is allegedly the homeopathic treatment for impotence (though not when taken either intravenously or as a suppository). Ginger "encourages blood flow" and "ginseng comes from a phallic tree, with potent roots shaped like the human body". Ginkgo biloba "has always been known for its beneficial effects for sexual potency. One for the boys, it increases blood flow throughout the whole body." Funny stuff, eh? Added bonus: gingko is supposedly a cure for a poor memory. Drinking it in Sex on the Piste, users will remember the names of all those strangers they wake up with after a wild night of artificially stimulated bawdiness.
I don't suppose anyone pays attention to the claims made for drinks like Sex on the Piste any more than they pay attention to the reportage in the Weekly World News. And the people behind the drink would surely respond, if challenged, by saying that it's all just a bit of good fun. But it's actually a bit more serious than that. If the campaign for the cocktail took place in a forum that had any kind of regulation, the claims would be thrown to the wolves - even before the vinaigrette was dry on the marketing guy's tie after the boozy lunch where the inspired idea had been hatched.
And there's good reason to be wary of even joking about connections between alcohol consumption and sexual success. I'm reminded of Kenneth Tynan's comment about the beauty of Greta Garbo: "What when drunk one sees in other women, one sees in Garbo sober." As a devoted defender of the therapeutic and life-enhancing properties of alcohol, I don't like anyone suggesting that it will turn every woman into Garbo - or every man into Cary Grant, for that matter.
And neither of these quasi-moralistic objections address the most obvious deficiencies of Sex on the Piste. One: any cocktail containing two tablespoons of cream is not tops on the list of heaven-sent aphrodisiacs. Two: no one is going to make this at home, or find a bartender in the Alps who just happens to have the inclination and ingredients to make it for them. Does it matter? Nah. After all, two women in front of me in the queue studied the front page of the Weekly World News. Did they buy it? You must be joking. *
Three lively lagers
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Munich-Style Lager £1.99/660ml One of several excellent continental-style beers brewed for JS by Alastair Hook at the Meantime brewery in Greenwich.
Samuel Adams Boston £1.09/330ml, Waitrose A US pioneer with lovely amber colour, generous caramelly flavours, fine hoppy finish. Bush might approve, if he still drank beer with his pretzels.
Kronenbourg Grand Cru £1.99/500ml, Threshers Kronenbourg, industrial pap? Not always. This old-style lager has 6 per cent alcohol and astonishing complexity. My current favourite.