Mamajuana: The Dominican Pride

By Varghese Johnson
Varghese Johnson is an assistant professor at St Joseph’s Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology at Choondacherry, Palai-Kerala.
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May 22, 2020

Mamajuana or Mama Juana pronounced as mama-VA-NA is the national drink of the Dominican Republic. It is a special spiced rum mixture believed to have aphrodisiac properties. It is an herbal drink commonly prepared in every household of the Dominican Republic. The much-guarded family recipes of Mamajuana is passed on from one generation to the next. This ‘Dominican Viagra’ concoction is made up of rum (mostly dark), sweet red wine, pure honey, roots, barks, stems and even leaves of different plants and trees grown in the locality. The colour varies from dark red to deep brown, depending on the period of infusion. The strength relies in the proportion of rum and wine added to the spices and herbs. Basil, rosewood, chamomile, bitter ginger, cinnamon etc are few ingredients that are commonly used. These spices and herbs are said to improve blood circulation in the human body. The taste of this flavoured rum closely resembles that of the famous Portugal wine, Port and the Italian herbal liqueur, Amaro. A Dominican doctor in the 1950s is said to have invented Mamajuana, though few relate it as a discovery of Taíno tribe, the inhabitants of the Caribbean. Locals claim that a shot of Mamajuana daily keeps you healthy and fit.

How to make Mamajuana?

Raw materials required - An empty wine/spirit bottle, spice and herb mixture, dark rum, sweet red wine, pure honey and raisins/strawberry (optional)

If you purchase the raw materials, you can make this exotic drink at your home. The making of Mamajuana comprises three steps- Filling, curing and maturing.

Filling - Collect an empty wine/spirit bottle and fill it with the spice and herb mixture (available locally in packets, if you are in the Dominican Republic) that you have purchased.

Curing - Add rum, sweet red wine and pure honey into the bottle. The proportion varies, but equal parts of rum and sweet red wine is preferred by most of the consumers. After adding all the ingredients, shake the bottle well and leave it aside for a week or so. During this infusion period, the spice and herb mixture will absorb most of the alcohol.

Maturing - Add more rum and wine along with honey and let the bottle rest for a week. Few add raisins and strawberry to remove the bitterness caused by the spice and herb mixture.

After a week, the drink is poured and consumed as shots. It is served neat (without any mixers) at room temperature.

Mamajuana’s medicinal attributes have garnered worldwide attention. Because of its huge demand, the commercial production of Mamajuana has started. Few notable brands are Kalembú, Candela and Karibú. It is a must drink for all the tourists visiting the Dominican Republic and many of them purchase the bottle from souvenir shops.

When Mamajuana was introduced to me by my friend, Gaurav Sharma I merely saw it as a drink. But later, I realized it is not just a drink, it has more to it…..culture, tradition, oneness, friendship and a lot more.

 

 

Comment on this article

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Sat, May 23 2020

    Thank you for an interesting article.

    I believe it is 'Mama Juana' (lit. in Konkani Mãi Zuan, or Mother Joan) as opposed to Mamajuana (a single word).

    Many might wonder if it is good enough to keep Covid-19 at bay.

    Regardless, I think alcohol is evil, and must be avoided at all costs.

    Agree [4]


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