Dominican Republic Mamajuana
It seems that anywhere you travel in the world; each country has its own native drink. The native drink of the Dominican Republic is known as mamajuana and amongst Dominicans; this tasty drink has gained somewhat of a mythical status. Legend has it that mamajuana acts as somewhat of a cure all from everything from “la gripe” (the Dominican term for the flu) to a variety of ailments ranging from prostate to ovarian disorders. However, mamajuana has gained specific notoriety among Dominicans for its rumored ability to increase vitality. It is said to be an extremely powerful natural aphrodisiac. Some even go so far as to describe it as a type of natural “liquid Viagra”.
What is Mamajuana?
So what exactly is in mamajuana? Well, when you first see a bottle of it, you may be somewhat surprised as it looks like a bottle full of sticks and leaves. Upon first glance, it doesn’t exactly look like something you would want to drink. Exactly what is in each particular bottle depends on who is making it. You see there is not any specific recipe for making mamajuana as making it is somewhat of a craft. There can be any variety of ingredients included in any particular bottle.
The sticks, leaves and roots that you see are taken from various plants and trees in the Dominican Republic such as Canilillea leaves and guyacan plants and are used to fill about half of the bottle. Then about 90% of the remaining space in the bottle is usually filled with dark rum. However, when making a new bottle, before adding the rum, you need to “cure” the wood. One way this is done is by adding cheap gin to the bottle and letting it sit for a minimum of 6 weeks to get the bitterness out. Then you can pour out the gin and add your rum. Any harmful bacteria that may be present in the ingredients are killed by the strength of the rum that is added. The rum is generally 40% proof or 20% alcohol.
Another way it can be done is to cure the wood with red wine and honey. Sometimes, instead of using mostly dark rum, people use mostly white. Also, the length of time needed to cure the initial bottle is debatable as is the length of time required for the finished concoction to settle before drinking. Sometimes, the first batch still comes out a little on the bitter side; however, with each additional batch made, the concoction is supposed to get smoother.
It is also debatable how long a specific bottle can last and how many times it can be reused. Some people claim that the average bottle can be refilled 15 to 20 times while others swear that there is no limit to how many times a bottle can be refilled. As you can see, there is much debate as to what is the “right” way to make a bottle of mamajuana.
Aside from the woody ingredients and the rum, there are a number of other ingredients that can be added. This is where you can get creative and what makes each bottle of mamajuana unique. One of the most common additions is honey. Others are cinnamon, raisins, red wine, molasses, and lemon or lime juice. Many Dominicans also add various natural wild Dominican herbs such as Marabeli, Osua, Timacle, caro, Brazil and Anamu. Another popular ingredient is the addition of mariscos (shellfish) such as conch, octopus snails and even the private parts of a sea turtle! Undoubtedly the combination of these ingredients is what provides mamajuana with its rare powers.
Although dark rum is the most popular, you can use and mix in different kinds of rum to flavor your bottle of mamajuana to your liking. Some people like to add a percentage of “ron blanco” (white rum) to the mixture and some who like an extra kick, like to add something stronger like some 151 proof rum. So, as you can see, there is no specific way to make a bottle of mamajuana.