Mamajuana: The Wood Chip Booze
What is Mamajuana?
Mamajuana is a native Dominican rum liqueur, made by steeping a mixture of tree bark and sticks in rum, red wine and honey. It is a deep red colour and tastes a bit like Port.
Botanicals added include anamu (petiveria shrub), albahaca (basil), bohuco pega palo (princess vine) anis estrellado (star anise), clavo dulce (cloves), and maguey leaves (agave). Some Mamajuana recipes sweeten the flavour with strawberries, cinnamon, molasses and fruit juices.
If you’ve visited the DR before, you may well have seen local guys on the beach selling big bottles of wood chips. That’s the stuff. The bottles are widely sold in DR stores, so look out for them.
Mamajuana is said to possess mystical powers that act immediately on your body when you drink it.
Wait, what mystical powers?
Well, Mamajuana is a famous aphrodiasiac. It is also known as ‘Liquid Viagra’, ‘The Baby Maker’, and ‘El Para Palo’ (The Stick Lifter).
Locals claim its power doesn’t stop there. Aside from sexual potency, Mamajuana is said to be brimming with health benefits, it:
- cleanses the blood and organs
- aids digestion
- promotes circulation
- cures the flu
- cures ovary and prostate disorders.
Where did it come from?
The mixture of roots and bark in Mamajuana is said to be an old Taino herbal remedy, at least some 500 years old. Alcohol was added to the tea after the European colonisers landed on the island in 1492. We’re not really sure how, but one theory is that sailors used it as a mixer for their brandy.
What we do know is that Jesus Rodriguez introduced the first official branded version of Mamajuana in the 1950s. He would drive for miles around the region in his trusty truck to gather the ingredients.
Mamajuana became so popular with the merengue tipico musicians, they wrote songs in its honour!
The name ‘Mamajuana’ actually refers to the type of bottle the drink came in. The French name for the squat bottle with a short, narrow neck was ‘Dame Jeanne’ (Lady Jane). This came into Spanish as ‘Dama Juana’, and then became Mama Juana.
How do you drink it?
While Dominicans will sip Mamajuana neat and at room temperature, it is also commonly served as a shot or on the rocks. The premium cocktail scene is catching onto Mamajuana, so expect to see it listed on fancy cocktail menus.
You can sub it in for rum in all your usual cocktails. It goes great with tropical fruit juices, or just with ginger ale and lime juice.
Who drinks it?
Well, mainly Dominicans. But Mamajuana is spreading quickly around the world, as it is commercialised and distributed by premium brands like Candela and Anteroz. It’s particularly popular as shots and in cocktails in Miami, New York, Spain and Peru.
The most famous drinker of Mamajuana was a real-life Dominican James Bond. Porfirio Rubirosa was a playboy, polo player, diplomat, race-car driver, and secret agent. Like Bond, he was well known for his sexual prowess, which may have been down to his taste for Mamajuana. We’ll never know for sure.
So, there you go. Dominican Viagra: coming soon to a liquor store near you!