Mamawhat, you ask? You know, Mamajuana the spiced Dominican rum drink that you may have had straight from the lid of its bottle on the street (oh, was that just me?).
Someone recently inquired whether or not Mamajuana was available for export. You may have had it from a friend, got curious at a resort, or perhaps enjoyed it as an after-dinner liqueur.
Mamajuana is readily available in most markets of the DR, and served in many a restaurant, and can even be made to order.
What is it?
Mamajuana is a traditional Dominican alcoholic beverage spiced with cinnamon, medicinal leaves and bark, and herbs - among other things. It is a sweet, yet fiery concoction that will leave you breathless, maybe even a little "frisky".
It is attributed many benefits: from medicinal, to aphrodisiac.
If it’s virility you are looking for, then you will of course request that more mariscos be included in the composition: conch, octopus, snail, and assorted insects, for example. If it’s a medicinal effect you require, there is a slew of ingredients for that purpose as well; things with strange names like anamú or timacle – which supposedly cure everything from prostate to ovarian problems. Lastly, let us not forget the ever-popular, and oddly named herbs "nail of a cat", or "claw of a parakeet", said to promote pregnancy.
Someone recently brought us a bottle from the DR. It was a giant gallon bottle, ridiculously wrapped - absolutely swathed in newspaper and "teipi" - a gift from my husband's family. Canadian Customs had our traveling friend unwrap it (because it looked like a huge bomb, I think) while he explained that the alcohol in it was something like a fixing agent (ha!) that would be emptied out here so that the herbs and leaves and stuff could be used to make WINE. I don't know why he felt the need to tell such an extravagant, weird lie - talk about overkill - but they believed it! No further questions asked!
The bottle was emptied quickly; we drank it down, over the course of a weekend, as if it were the nectar of the gods. I don't remember ever being a big mamajuana fan while I lived in the DR, so it’s ironic that I should now be ogling our empty receptacle, where it sits ominously on my kitchen counter, with all its leaves and roots in a strange form of arid petrification, as I hatch my plan:
1.- I have to get some rum. Apparently, the roots in mamajuana have a seven-year shelf life, so that the bottle may be refilled over and over again. In this instance, the rum needn’t be very good - un ron "del malo", like a Carta Dorada, would be ideal. In my less than ideal world, I would usually settle for Bacardi or Havana Club, but for the making of mamajuana I insist that the rum at least be Dominican. In fact, I’m going to get a bottle of Brugal from an online vendor who ships internationally. I think it will be worth the ass-kicking I'll take in duties and GST.
2.- I'll need some honey. Shouldn't be a problem. We have that here.
3.- I'll need a "miembro de carey". This could prove slightly more problematic, as I don't know where to even begin looking for a sea turtle's penis and probably won't find one here in all of Canada. Oh, you didn't know you were drinking sea turtle's penis extract in your mamajuana? Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but, yes (or so I've been told by enthusiastic vendors, though it would actually be illegal, carey turtles are endangered). I bet there's not a single sea turtle's penis to be had in even the highly multi-ethnic Montreal. We won’t kid ourselves into thinking I'm going to find the "miembro de carey", but we may hope there may still be some remnants of it, even if it's just sea turtle penis residue, stuck to the sides of the godforsaken flask.
And perhaps that’s the lure of mamajuana, no matter where you are; the collection of the diverse ingredients, its careful preparation, the time it’s given to
fester ferment… If it were to be readily available for export to the non-Dominican world, well, it just wouldn’t be the same. And I would hate to see mamajuana go the way of the industrially manufactured jabón de cuaba – but that’s a rant for another day.
About this recipe
I hope by now you've come to the expected conclusion that there isn't just one recipe for mamajuana, and that the ingredients – some obscure, some of questionable provenance and effects – may be difficult or impossible to obtain outside the Dominican Republic. But if you were hoping to learn how to make mamajuana, you can make this homemade version, with the fragrance and taste of spices familiar to Dominicans. No "miembro de carey" needed.
And if you've ever made this, we'd love to hear about it, let us know in the comments.
Our guest: Jill is Canadian, mother of two Dominican-Canadian children. She lived in Sosua, Dominican Republic for many years, so she gives us an unusual insight into our culinary culture.
[Recipe + Video] Mamajuana (Dominican Drink with Spices)
- 2 cup Dominican dark rum, [480 ml]
- 12 cloves
- 6 allspice berries
- 3 star anise
- 4 sticks cinammon
- 1 cup honey, [240 ml]
- 1 cup red wine, [240 ml]
- Steeping: In a clean jar or bottle, place cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and star anise. Pour in the rum. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and let it rest for a week.
- Finishing: Once the spices have been steeping in the rum for a week, pour in the honey and wine. Stir to mix.Let it rest in the fridge for at least a day, best another week.
- Serving: Serve chilled as a digestif (after meals) in a shot glass.
Tips and Notes
Nutritional information is calculated automatically based on ingredients listed. Please consult your doctor if you need precise nutritional information.