Lickable Skin (photograph by Emilie Baltz, courtesy Museum of Sex)

Lickable Skin (photograph by Emilie Baltz, courtesy Museum of Sex)

The Museum of Sex has opened its own cocktail bar with rotating artist-designed drinks, and one of the first is called Lickable Skin. It’s meant to taste like kissing an older man who has just shaved and smoked a cigarette.

“I like to play with the notion of being awkward and the sensation of awkwardness,” its creator, Dutch artist Bart Hess, told Hyperallergic. This is the first food art that Hess has created, although he said that he “always lets the material decide which discipline he will work in.” The drink is part of his ongoing interest in liquids, which manifests in experiments with “slime art” (including in a Lady Gaga video), forming hot wax in water, and in videos like “Shaved,” playing in the new bar.

The bar, called Play, is accessed through another new Museum of Sex creation: the Nice & Sweet coffee shop (subtly suggesting the museum is not). It’s a standard Manhattan lounge space, with some books over couches leading up to a small bar space with some mildly racy art on the walls, including a reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” backlit behind the bar. It will be curious to see who, exactly, decides to roam in from the Flatiron District to have a drink in this place.

The Museum of Sex's bar Play (photograph by the author)

The Museum of Sex’s bar, Play (photograph by the author for Hyperallergic)

But if you did, here’s how the scene would go, were you to order Lickable Skin (which, as of the bar’s opening last week, you couldn’t, as it wasn’t ready yet, but let’s assume you’re going on a night when it and its specially made serving dish are ready): You order the drink, and a black plate arrives at your table. It’s then filled to the brim with a thick, opaque white liquid, and since you can’t move the dish without spilling it, “the only way to get it out is by licking or slurping,” as Hess said.

“The whole experience should be this point where you want to lick it, but you’re not really sure if you want to,” he said.  “I was going for a sensation that you can’t really explain,” with a contrast between the rippled dish that’s like an “extraterrestrial” skin and the flavor that’s “human and recognizable.” It’s sort of like the awkwardness of when you impulse choose a cocktail in a bar and then end up with something that wasn’t quite what you expected — maybe the glass looks like it has plants growing out of it, or it’s in an inappropriate martini glass filled so far over the meniscus that you’ll spill half of it if you don’t drink straight from the glass while bending over the bar.

If that’s not quite your speed, the other current artist-designed cocktail at Play is by Bompas & Parr. Called “Crush Porn,” its cocktail syrup comes from grapes smashed by the feet of New York celebrities. And if that’s not quite your scene either, the rest of the drinks — sporadic sex-pun names aside — are actually fairly standard NYC cocktail fare by Jim Kearns, who has done work with Double Seven, Pegu Club, Death & Co., and Freemans.

Play is the new cocktail bar at the Museum of Sex (233 Fifth Avenue, Flatiron District, Manhattan).

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print and online media since 2006. She moonlights...