Look Out, Love Potion No. 9

Daffy Duck once risked disintegration by raygun to bring his boss a tiny container out of which poured a busty blonde: sex in a bottle.

Now reality is beginning to resemble the world of cartoons with bottled drinks that claim to rev up people's love lives one sip at a time.

And the king of kinky drinkies is Niagara — now called Nexcite.

"Not only do you get a little bit silly, you get a little bit tongue-tied," said Alan Mah, president of Wichita, Kan.-based Bunny Beverages, which distributes the Swedish-made drink.

Although the drink is commonly sold in one-serving bottles, it's best consumed with someone the drinker loves, or at least likes. The most coveted effect of the fizzy, berry-flavored drink comes when the imbiber — especially if she's a woman — is in the throes of passion.

"I asked my wife if she started feeling tingly when she drank it," Mah said. "She said you feel tingly when you're having sex."

No wonder, then, that the drink has sold 24 million bottles in the last year. That's a far cry from when a chemist in the Nordic Drinks lab mixed ginseng and other herbal extracts with carbonated water to make a "romance-enhancing" drink as a side project.

About a year ago, Little Rock, Ark., café owner Lari Williams discovered the drink at a Dallas trade show, hauled as much as she could back home in a U-Haul and began selling them at her coffee shop (recommending them only for married couples).

Soon enough, there were lines of Southern belles out the door. One desperate man even offered Williams several thousand dollars for a single bottle.

The drink is now poised to go mainstream and hit restaurants, gourmet gift stores and spas across the country in both the single-serving size (suggested retail $4 to $4.50) and a champagne bottle ($20).

Mah said anecdotal evidence suggests it works in about 75 percent of women who drink it.

"Women over 30 for whatever reason seem to be substantially the most enthusiastic audience," he said.

Though Nexcite's not going to be as big as, say Red Bull, it will make its mark where it counts.

"The romance market is quite a bit smaller than the energy-drink market," Mah said. "It's something people like to share on a weekend away as opposed to drinking three of them at a bar."

But Nexcite won't be on the aphrodisiac-drink shelf alone. At the end of the year, Juicemaker Veryfine will be releasing Fruit20, which is water infused with fruit essences. Its Orange Vanilla "Passion" flavor, which includes passionflower and chamomile, will be of interest to the lovelorn.

"Vanilla is a pretty well-known aphrodisiac," Veryfine president Sam Rowse said. "Just smelling vanilla will begin to get you … motivated."

Fruit20 will be sold for a little more than a dollar in Wal-Mart, Kmart and grocery stores, Rowse said.

But many are skeptical. American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Julie Walsh said no one knows whether the herbs in these drinks really have the supposed effect.

"Usually, it's just a marketing gimmick," she said. "It could be a placebo effect going on if you think it's going to heighten your arousal, then maybe it will. They say sex is 90 percent in the brain anyway."

Even a good attitude couldn't win 22-year-old Erin Osher over to the Nexcite camp. She tried the drink, which came with a whopping $10 price tag, on a first date.

"I thought it was the biggest waste of money ever," the Cleveland native said. "It tasted like bubblegum soda and, trust me, no sparks were flying. All my date went home with was a $10 credit-card charge!"

But Mah said he's felt the difference personally.

"My wife and I both work, we get home at the end of the day stressed out and traditionally we just wanted to veg out in front of the TV, maybe have a couple glasses of wine," he said. "Now, one or two nights a week, we'll have one or two bottles of Nexcite and instead of vegging out, we can actually enjoy each other's company. It's improved the quality of our lives as a result."