I'm a bit slow in posting this, but it required some research and I didn't want to leave anyone's curiosity unsatisfied. Anyway, this past weekend I attended a friend's roof-top housewarming party. I have a serious case apartment envy, but that's another story for another time. Rather than his 43rd floor panoramic view of New Jersey and the Upper West Side (or his glass-front Sub-Zero refrigerator), I'd like to tell you all about the mystery drink that he served.
It was called Mama Juana and he served the spicy-sweet pink alcohol out of a completely unmarked clear glass bottle. "Sip it, don't shoot it!" he ordered as he passed out the 1-ounce shot glasses. So adamant was his tone that it nearly warranted a hearty "yessir!" but I resisted.
The drink burned like a stiff martini, but had a complex flavor heavily influenced with rum and honey. So complex it was, that I drank shot after shot trying to figure it out. (Hey, it was research, people. Don't judge!) In one sip I noticed the honey, in another I thought I tasted cloves, or was it cinnamon, or both even? And was there vanilla? Maybe something from the citrus family? It was so mesmerizing that I kept "sampling" more, and the more I sampled, the more mesmerizing it became... Some people at the party hated it, but not me. I was intrigued more than anything else.
As it was explained to me, the drink came from St. Croix and was more or less a bootleg hooch made in the rainforest by a woman in a hut. The only way to buy it is to go there yourself and smuggle it back since its transport is not allowed. I was told you can get it a little more easily from the Dominican Republic, but that their version of the hooch isn't near as good. "Great..." I thought. "I have to fly my behind down to St. Croix and track down this woman in a hut in the rainforest to get the good stuff. That'll happen soon."
Or so I thought...
Further research (conducted completely sober, mind you) revealed that the Dominican Republic is actually much more widely known for the concoction. According to the (questionably reliable) Wikipedia entry:
"Mama Juana is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak into a bottle together with tree bark and herbs. The taste is quite similar to port wine and color is a deep red. It is seen and advertised as an aphrodisiac. Many Dominicans make homemade Mama Juana. Many Natives of the Dominican Republic claim that Mama Juana has similar effects to Viagra, stating that it increases sexual drive and desire and increases the Male Libido."
Hrmm... Libido increasing effects aside, did I do something stupid by consuming a drink infused with unidentified tree bark and herbs? Well, so far so good... It's now four days later and I've yet to hallucinate, convulse, experience heart palpitations or, worse, keel over and die.
So, my research has revealed that it's actually possible to purchase a bottle with a selection of the barks, herbs and other items for infusion. To be clear, the bottles are sold with just the dry infusion ingredients, but it's not difficult to follow the directions and prepare the brew yourself. Hopefully...
I'm ordering a bottle from Mamajuana Corp. Or, at least, I am once their Web site starts accepting payment again. As far as I can tell, this is the only option for acquiring the goods wthout a plane ticket and passport. Not that I'm opposed to traveling to the Dominican Republic or St. Croix, but I'm on a budget. Maybe if people start throwing money at me I'll be more inclined to hop on a plane in search of an authentic drunken experience. Until then, I'm going to have to be a little more conservative with my spending.
I'll keep you posted as I pursue my own Mama Juana "brewing" experience. Until then, I'll try to update this site more often.