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Last Updated: Friday, 22 December 2006, 09:33 GMT
'Viagra cocktail' takes off in Sao Tome
By Maimouna Jallow
BBC News, Sao Tome

People ate the tree bark to cure stomach pains and hernias
Traditionally people ate the tree bark in the cocktail to cure hernias
A cafe on the island of Sao Tome off Africa's west coast relies on its famed aphrodisiac cocktail to pull in punters during the festive season.

A large glass bottle containing a mysterious brown liquid labelled "Pilolo Atomico" - which means Atomic Penis - occupies a prime position on the bar.

"It's so popular, even the president talks about it," says Maria-Joao Pombo, the owner of Cafe and Companhia (Cafe and Company).

"Pilolo Atomico is made up of a mixture of a local brandy and several tree barks," she says.

"We also flavour it with things like cinnamon because it is very bitter. Here in Sao Tome, they say it's an aphrodisiac."

Herbal remedy

Ms Pombo, who moved to the island five years ago, has been selling the cocktail for about a year and a half.

Maria-Joao Pombo
I knew the name sounded very suggestive but I didn't know exactly what it meant
Maria-Joao Pombo

She decided to go commercial after hearing about the local erotic concoction.

"I knew people here eat the bark of plants like Pao tree; washing it down with what they call a 'hot (alcoholic) drink'.

"So I decided to combine the ingredients and bottle it," she says.

Traditionally, however, the drink was not only used to enhance sexual potency.

People ate the tree bark to cure stomach pains and hernias. It also gave them the strength to walk for miles without food or drink.


And Pilolo Atomico is not its original name either, this was cooked up by some of Ms Pombo's friends while sitting at the bar.

Map of Sao Tome

"I knew the name sounded very suggestive but I didn't know exactly what "pilolo" meant," she explains.

"Once the drink started becoming more popular, I decided to register the name and the product.

"But they wouldn't let me. That is when I found out that "pilolo" means penis."

Sceptics say the cocktail's popularity is just down to its name, but some cafe regulars swear by it.

It tastes foul
Cafe customer

"When I drink just one glass of pilolo, I feel strong for 12 hours. Believe me, it really does work," says Miguel.

"You just have to make sure you have a beautiful woman with you," he adds.

Women also seemed to appreciate its aphrodisiacal effects.

"It's fantastic, much better than the blue pill," says Alexia, referring to the impotency drug Viagra.

Others say the cocktail is an acquired taste.

"It tastes foul," says Bibi.

But effective or not, safe sex is the message - every Pilolo Atomico comes with a free condom.

Country profile: Sao Tome and Principe
11 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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