While in the Dominican Republic recently, there was much talk and hype about a beverage called Mamajuana (mama juana). 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. Loopy after just a little shot of this beverage. So I researched and found out everything I could about the Dominican legend known as Dominican Viagra.
What is Mamajuana? (Mama Juana)
This drink unique 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 beverage evolved from its early form as herbal tea prepared by the Taino Indians, and they include water with different tree bark and herbs. In the post-Columbus era, the recipe added alcohol.
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)
How is Mamajuana made?
Soak the bark and herb mixture with dark rum (40% Proof or 20% alcohol) or red wine and, in some cases, a combination of both. The herbs and bark soak in this for several weeks, the liquid removed, and honey, fresh rum and red wine added again. There is a debate about how many times to reuse the herb mixture, some say indefinitely, others ten 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 combination tastes. Some versions include ginger, cinnamon and vanilla; there 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), referring to the large bottle with a narrow neck. Vendors in the Dominican told us its name is because of it being an aphrodisiac and the short form for “Mama do you wanna?”
Mamajuana Drink – Dangers, What Tourists need to know?
When buying the concoction, be sure you are buying it from a reputable souvenir store or distillery. Some of the vendors on your resort’s beach have homemade variations with dangerous barks and, in some cases, shellfish. Be sure you buy your mamajuana from a hotel store or souvenir shop to ensure you are getting a sealed bottle. The bottle below was a home-grown mixture I had on an excursion to Saona Island. I have no clue what was in it. It was scary, mainly since it affected me so quickly, and I was intoxicated with one drink!
The combination of the dark rum known in the Dominican as Gasoline mixed with wine and soaked in the bark and herb mixture makes this drink very potent. Ingest it in small shots, and you should limit the number of shots you have. Overconsumption of this beverage can lead to alcohol poisoning.
The Mamajuana legend – Dominican Viagra and Medicinal Cure-All
Aphrodisiac – Liquid Viagra
- Mamajuana sold to tourists with stories of it being a powerful aphrodisiac and a medicinal cure-all.
- Referred to as Viagra Dominica, Dominican Viagra and liquid Viagra.
- Most of this talk is probably a “tourist experience” as there is no scientific evidence to support the claim.
- One thing for sure, this potent drink will break down your inhibitions pretty quickly due to its potency!
Medicinal Uses of mamajuana
Again there are no official claims as to the medicinal properties of the Mama Juana drink. Many Dominicans believe that the beverage can cure:
- flu, blood sugar and diabetic issues, organ health and joint pain relief.
- Mixtures using cinnamon help stabilize blood sugar and aid with those who have diabetes. (How a sugar-based alcoholic beverage can help anyone with Diabetes is a flag for me.)
- Cloves help with painkilling.
- Honey has been a natural remedy for centuries, and Dominicans believe it improves symptoms of flu and to boost energy.
Taking Mamajuana home to the US or Canada – What you need to Know.
Bottled in two ways, with just herbs and tree bark for you to take home and mix the rum and wine yourself, or a ready-to-drink version.
Both US and Canadian customs do not permit the transport of Mama Juana if it is not in its liquid. If you take dry mamajuana ingredients home with you, be warned, Customs may confiscate them. U.S. customs officials appear wise to the beverage and will ask you straight out if you are bringing back Mamajuana. Those with liquid versions are subject to the alcohol importing restrictions of their customs office, but those with dry ingredients may be confiscated on the spot.
Canada Customs regulations are: “Prohibited items: [Firearms, etc.] … and PLANTS, animal products, meat, food and PLANT MATERIAL SUBJECT TO CERTAIN RESTRICTIONS AND FORMALITIES. In addition, it is prohibited to import fresh fruit.” Mamajuana is Consider Mamajuana a plant or animal product in its dry form. However, alcohol content and soaking of the leaves and bark kill any bugs in the liquid version of the drink.
Canada Customs may not ask you directly if you are carrying the dry ingredients; However failing to report their transport, whether you are aware of the rules or not, is subject to confiscation and a possible penalty for not disclosing.
Mamajuana (mama juana) – Conclusion
I think this drink is a tourist draw. I enjoyed my two shots, which knocked me on my butt so fast that they scared me. It is a very potent drink and part of the Dominican experience, but know what you are getting yourself into before you partake in the beverage. I have no clue what was in the version I took. Thankfully I lived to laugh about it. So believe what you want about its legendary claims and enjoy some fun in the Dominican Republic — with a side of caution!