Mamajuana (or sometimes mama juana – Mother Jane) is a drink native to the Dominican Republic. Originally brewed as a form of herbal tea, alcohol began to be added to the recipe after the arrival of Europeans to the Americas, for it to become the drink it is today. It is actually considered to be one of the first distilled spirits in the Americas, predating rum. Nowadays, Mamajuana is a mixture of rum, red wine and honey which is allowed to age in a barrel, with a mixture of herbs and tree bark (much like Ethiopians’ Tej) for flavoring. The name of the drink actually refers to the shape of the bottle it was brewed in, so the drink itself has numerous recipes. It is most often served neat and at room temperature, in a shot glass. Most brands tend to be a bit too overpowering to mix into a cocktail well, but there are a few that can be managed.
The drink has been consumed by many for its alleged medicinal properties, which are rumored to range from being an aphrodisiac, to being a flu remedy, or even a digestive aid.
While dark rum is most often used as the base, the use of white rum is not unheard of. The herbal and bark mixtures can be purchased as a kit. It is often recommended that the solid items have an initial soak in light rum for several days, which is then discarded, before the actual dark rum, red wine and honey mixture is added. This is known as curing, and removes a lot of the bitterness from the initial batch. These kits, which consist of a glass bottle filled with the herbs and bark and roots, are often reused by simply refilling them with more of the liquids. The herbal taste will diminish with each use, however.
The herbs can include:
- 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)
Other additions also include cinnamon, strawberries, raisins, molasses, lemon or lime juice.
A few brands have been branching out into other countries.