Mama Juana (or Mamajuana) is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. The taste is similar to port wine and the color is a deep red.
The term Mama Juana has the same French origins as the English word demijohn, which refers to a large squat bottle with a short narrow neck, usually covered in wicker. It is thought to be derived from the French Dame Jeanne (Lady Jane), a term still used to describe this type of bottle. In the Spanish-speaking countries, Dame Jeanne was transformed into "damajuana", or Dama Juana and later, in the Dominican Republic, into Mama Juana (mother Jane). There are many different variations of recipes to make Mamajuana, since the name refers to the container or bottle originally used to prepare and store the maceration, rather than to the finished product itself.
Mama Juana is considered one of the first distilled spirits in the Americas, even before rum, considering that early Spanish explorers mixed European alcohol with the Taínos' herbal tea; this combination created the first Mama Juana.
During the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, the sale of Mama Juana was prohibited, except by those with a medical license.
Mama Juana was popularized as a local herbal medicine and aphrodisiac in the 1950s by Jesus Rodriguez, a native of San Juan de la Maguana. Rodriguez would commute with others in trucks to Barahona, Azua, Pedernales, and many other provinces in the Dominican Republic to collect the stems needed to create the medicinal drink. He would reportedly use carne ce carey (leatherback turtle meat), which was the active ingredient that made the aphrodisiac. Rodriguez eventually would be known under the moniker "Mama Juana" by many of the locals, as well as Tatico Henriquez and other merengue típico artists, such as Trio Reynoso and El Cieguito De Nagua, who were close friends of Rodriguez.
Another notable Mama Juana drinker was Porfirio Rubirosa, the famous Dominican playboy, polo player, race-car driver, and secret agent. Rubirosa was famous for his sexual prowess, and was known to be an avid mamajuana drinker, as mentioned in his biography, The Last Playboy.
Mama Juana is a mixture of bark and herbs left to soak in rum (most often dark rum but the use of white rum is not uncommon), red wine and honey. The solid ingredients (local leaves, barks, sticks and roots) vary from region to region but usually include some of the following:
- Anamú (Petiveria alliacea)
- Anis estrellado (star anise, Illicium verum)
- Bohuco pega-palo (Cissus verticillata)
- Albahaca (basil, Ocimum basilicum)
- Canelilla (Cinnamodendron ekmanii)
- Bojuco caro (princess vine)
- Marabeli (Securidaca virgata)
- Clavo dulce (whole clove)
- Maguey (Agave spp.) leaves
- Timacle (Chiococca alba)
In addition to the above standard recipe, it is common for individuals to add other ingredients such as cinnamon, raisins, strawberry, molasses, and lemon or lime juice. Some recipes are said to include grated tortoiseshell, or sea turtle penis shaft for aphrodisiac effect. The concoction is usually kept at room temperature and served in a shot glass.
Mamajuana is available in three varieties:
- Prepackaged dry ingredients, which the customer cures and macerates
- Ready to drink, including the ingredients in the bottle
- Ready to drink, filtered and bottled
The most common way of consuming mamajuana in the Dominican Republic is neat (straight up) or as a room-temperature shot.
With the popularization of ready to drink brands, there has been a growing interest for mamajuana amongst mixologists. Many bars, restaurants and other on-premise establishments now offer mamajuana recipes in their beverage programs.
In recent years, the consumption of mamajuana has seen a sharp rise, with commercial brands becoming available in the Dominican Republic and internationally. Premium brands, such as Candela and Anteroz and economy brands such as Karibú and Kalembú, can be purchased in duty-free shops, resorts and liquor stores.
Besides the Dominican Republic, there has also been an increase in mamajuana consumption in Miami, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Spain, Chile, Cuba and Perú. With the introduction of commercial brands Mamajuana is becoming known worldwide.
- "Mamajuana Recipe". Dame Cacao. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
- Nicolas J. Pilcher (2006). Proceedings of the Twenty-third Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, 17 to 21 March 2003, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Southeast Fisheries Science Center. p. 198. Retrieved 2 June 2013. "An informant expressed that tortoiseshell can also be grated and added to mamajuana bottles."
- Christopher P. Baker (7 December 2009). Explorer's Guide Dominican Republic: A Great Destination (Explorer's Great Destinations). Countryman Press. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-58157-907-9. Retrieved 2 June 2013. - "Herbs, and even honey (and sometimes fruits), find their way into the mix, as occasionally do marine turtle penises, said to impart the necessary qualities to turn mamajuana into a liquid Viagra."
- "What is Mamajuana?". Mamajuana. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- "About Mamajuana". Candela. Archived from the original on 17 May 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- "Mamajuana Cocktails". Candela. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- "Our Story". Candela. Archived from the original on 17 May 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
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