What is Mamajuana?
The Quintessential Spirit of the Dominican Republic
“Before rum, there was mamajuana…”
One of the first distilled spirits in the Americas, mamajuana is the product of the Taino Indian’s herbal tea combined with European alcohol (that makes good ol’ Chris Columbus one of the first mixologists in history). Thus mamajuana was born and many began concocting their own recipes. Most households had their own distinct versions, and many began to sell their homemade creations.
That was, until Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, caught on to the “epidemic” of the rumored aphrodisiac spirit. His biggest fear: population growth. So he issued a decree forbidding sale of the drink without a medical license. As a result, that legendary “liquid viagra” born from a bottle of sugar cane alcohol and barks stowed in abuelita’s basement was now the signature underground drink of the Dominican Republic.
How It’s Made
“Honey, spice and everything nice.”
It’s a pretty simple recipe: just tree barks + herbs + spices + honey soaked in alcohol. Some recipes also include wine.
Let these ingredients steep for a few months and voilà!
The selection of herbs and barks used in the making of mamajuana is credited to the native Taino Indians. The combination of sticks, roots and barks were chosen for their health benefits.
When paired with alcohol (which is said to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs and barks), mamajuana is reported to have curative properties. It has been used as a cold and flu remedy, an aid in digestion and circulation, and most famously, as a stimulant for sexual desire.
“Not all mamajuanas are created equal.”
You can find mamajuana in 3 distinct formats:
- DIY mamajuana: a bag of dry mamajuana base ingredients. Add alcohol, honey to your liking. It usually looks like this:
- Ready-to-drink, with barks soaking in the bottle
3. Ready-to-drink, filtered (a.k.a. premium mamajuana- you buy it here)
How to Drink Mamajuana
“Dame Candela, por favor.”
The most common way to drink mamajuana is straight: just pour room-temperature mamajuana in a glass. Plain and simple. This is how most people in the Dominican Republic drink it.
How We Like It
We recommend drinking mamajuana:
- As a shot. Serving it at room temperature will highlight many of its natural aromas. We strongly recommend Candela over housemade mamajuanas.
- In cocktails. While most mamajuanas are usually too intense to be mixed, Candela is smooth, has a distinct flavor and a subtle sweetness. This makes it a superb base spirit in many cocktail recipes, like an Old Fashioned, Dominican Mule and many other cocktails. For mamajuana cocktail recipes, visit the Cocktails page.