Like any liquor, good craft stands alone. With that statement I guess I could stop posting drink recipes.
Drop me in a muggy, salt-stenched, no name town in the islands, please and thank you. Where the latin beat is so loud it’s all you can do to not gravitate towards it; like an earthquake opening a sinkhole of lust and mystique. Those dark skin women keeping the beat like its riding a bike. Sweat pours out of you in those places, especially when you find yourself on the dance floor. You smell and sense the heat before you feel it. It encompasses you on a manic Saturday night and there’s not enough rum to quench my thirst. That’s true rum.
I have found myself in the Dominican Republic, running from the cold. On a whim, as I do all my traveling, I settled in an amazing thatch roof shack on a desolate stretch of sand. A small Dominican town lies a mile down the road, with not a single resort in sight…a dream come true. And there’s rum….endless rum…really a dream come true.
I’ve been here a few days with not a bar of cell service and no internet, completely cut off from any work. So I have made day trips exploring the country my work, searching for rum. In my travels I have found great spits of bars where the service is warm, the beer cold and the views unreal. In these places I have learned of Mama Juana, a native drink of sticks and leaves soaked in rum, red wine and honey. You see it everywhere…being peddled on the beach out of old soda pop two liters, in souvenir shops, and in every concrete slab of a bar. Now, had I read up on the country or done my research on what not to eat and drink while vacationing in the Dominican, I would have known about Mama Juana soaked with seafood. Almost sounds alluring…like a ceviche or shrimp cocktail…nope, it’s just a bunch of seafood like clams, octopus, conch, even sea turtle penis (which could be a whole other topic of disgust), stuffed into a bottle. Lucky me I happened to smile at the right bartender and bat my eyes at the wrong bottle. Poured into a shot glass it smells a bit reminiscent of the sea, briny and sweet, but on first sip it turns into this foul seafood syrup that no amount of Presidente could flush from my tongue; let’s not mention the aftermath. So needless to say it was dire to try the regular Mama Juana the way the Taino Indians would have wanted to remember it…it was ok, but I will forever be haunted by the smell of the sea and the sight of the entombed creatures.
Besides Mama Juana the Dominican has a lot of really great rums, a few of which made it back to the states with me, even a small bottle of spicy Mama Juana. After a few pours of really fine rum on ice I braved myself to try a drink with this little bottle. I muddled a couple ice cube size chunks of pineapple with a shot of rum, a single sugar cube and mint (here I used pineapple mint). Fill the glass with crushed ice and soda water and place a floater of the Mama Juana right on top. The first sip really allows you to get the full flavor of the Mama Juana before it mixes well into the drink, and the spiciness adds a bit more complexity when paired with the sweetness of the pineapple. Not a bad way to appreciate the Dominican Republics famed concoction and to have respect for Mama Juana again.