Dominican Republic Mama Juana

While in the Dominican Republic recently there was much talk and hype of a beverage called Mama Juana (mamajuana). Our tour operator warned us about it as there are rules for bringing it back home and there are various variations of the drink. I had to try it while I was there and was shocked by how potent it was. A small shot of this beverage and I was totally looped. So I had to do some research and find out everything I could about the Dominican legend known as Dominican Viagra.

What is Mamajuana? (Mama Juana)

This drink special to the Dominican Republic and Haiti is a rum, red wine and honey mixture soaked in a bottle with various tree bark and herbs. The drink evolved from its early form as an herbal tea prepared by the Taino Indians, which included water with various tree bark and herbs. In the post-Columbus era alcohol was added to the recipe.

The mixture of bark, tree leaves and herbs varies depending on the region in Dominican or Haiti. There are various versions of the drink including the following types of vegetation:

  • Anam· (Petiveria alliacea)
  • Anis Estrellado (Illicium verum)
  • Bohuco Pega Palo (Cissus verticillata)
  • Albahaca (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Canelilla (Cinnamodendron ekmanii)
  • Bojuco Caro (Princess Vine)
  • Marabeli (Securidaca virgata)
  • Clavo Dulce (Whole Clove)
  • Maguey (Agave spp.) leaves
  • Timacle (Chiococca alba)
(source: Wikipedia.org)

The bark and herb mixture is soaked with dark rum (40% Proof or 20% alcohol) or red wine and in some cases a mixture of both. The herbs and bark soak in this for several weeks and the liquid is then removed and honey, fresh rum and red wine is added again. There is a debate as to how many times the mixture is reused some say it can be reused indefinitely, others 10 years, others more specific from 2 – 6 times. The more times the herbs and bark are soaked in the alcohol and honey mixture, the less bitter the mixture tastes. Some versions include ginger, cinnamon and vanilla, there really is no right or wrong recipe.

Mama Juana is named after the English word Demijohn and from the French Dame Jeanne (lady Jane) (Source: Wikipedia.org) which refers to the large bottle with a narrow neck. Vendors in the Dominican told us it was named because of it being an aphrodisiac and the short form for “Mama do you wanna?”

Mama Juana – Dangers, What Tourists need to know?

Variations – when buying the concoction be sure you are buying it from a reputable salesman, in a sealed bottle. Some of the vendors on your resort’s beach have variations with dangerous barks and in some cases shellfish which tourists have complained of side effects or reactions to. Be sure you are buying your mamajuana from a hotel store or souvenir shop to ensure you are getting the properly packaged version. The bottle to the left was a home-grown mixture I had on an excursion to Saona Island and I have no clue what was in it. A scary thought now especially since I was looped from one shot!

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