Mmmm… Mauby!

mauby labelUpdate: This post is far and away the most popular at Slakethirst, garnering hundreds of hits from searches for “Mauby” and related terms — there’s not much else on the Internet about mauby, it seems. I’ve recently made some mauby from scratch, and have posted a recipe if that interests you. If you arrived here looking for other information about mauby, I’d appreciate it if you left a comment, letting me know what you were hoping to find. –c

I stopped into an Afro-Caribbean grocery yesterday afternoon, hoping to find some Falernum — essential to the true Mai Tai, Rum Swizzle, Fog Cutter and others. No joy with the Falernum, but it’s hard to leave empty handed when confronted with a wealth of imported comestible curiosities. I purchased a bottle of “Sweet & Dandy Mauby Syrup” (and a can of Ghanaian palm nut puree, but that’s another story), hoping it would prove interesting.

Mauby (or “mabi,” “mawbi,” “maubi,” etc.), it turns out, is a much-loved bev in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Cuba — all of the Caribbean, it seems. It derives its name from the central ingredient, the bark of the mauby tree, Colubrina arborescens (or is it Colubrina elliptica?), a buckthorn commonly referred to as “soldierwood” or “naked wood” in the States. Strips of the bark are steeped in boiling water, to which a hefty amount of cane sugar and a variety of spices have been added. On many islands, a portion of a previous batch is used as a starter, and the whole is left to ferment for several days. Fermented or not, it’s drunk ice-cold.

In folk medicine, mauby is variously ascribed the ability to lower cholesterol, counteract arthritis, reduce high blood pressure, act as an aphrodisiac, relieve dysentery, lower diabetics’ blood sugar, and if nothing else, be an excellent thirst-slaking “cooling” beverage. In fact, recent studies [pdf] from the University of the West Indies have shown that consumption of mauby — particularly when made with young coconut water — can significantly reduce hypertension, though the jury is still out on its other benefits.

The syrup I purchased is unspecific about its other flavoring ingredients — “spices and essences” sayeth the label — and I doubt that it was fermented. How closely it approximates traditional home-made mauby, or even how it compares to other concentrates, I cannot say, but R&L Brand Sweet & Dandy Mauby Syrup produces something tasting very like a sweet root beer up-front, with an incredibly long, drawn out bitterness following. It’s a somewhat medicinal aftertaste, but one acclimates to it in fairly short order. Some recipes call for a few dashes of Angostura, others don’t, so I don’t know if all preparations of mauby share this note — some travelers’ journals rave about “refreshing mauby” without even mentioning the bitterness, while others caution that it’s very much an acquired taste. Regardless, it’s a taste that’s beloved throughout the Caribbean — in Trinidad alone, the largest producer of mauby concentrate turns out over 5 million liters — that’s 25 million liters of potable mauby — annually.

What does mauby have to do with cocktails, however? Good question. I’ve not found any recipes calling for it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place at the bar. The syrup is very concentrated — it’s meant to be mixed with water in a 1:4 ratio — which makes it powerfully sweet undiluted. One can easily substitute vodka for 1/2 of the water without notably changing the flavor profile — and I’ve found a Trinidadian’s blog that mentions this practice — but that’s a cop-out. I suspect it may prove more interesting as a substitute for Coca-Cola or root beer in drinks like the Colorado Bulldog, Cuba Libre and Galliano Root Beer Float.

UPDATE: A Mauby Libre isn’t half bad:

1 oz. Mauby Syrup
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
juice of half a lime

Shake well wish crushed ice, strain into a tall glass and fill with seltzer.

Not quite what I was hoping for, but a decent long drink for the dog days. Unfortunately dilute mauby hasn’t the color density of Coca-Cola — this drink doesn’t look very nice. Outside of the world of the long, a proper cocktail with mauby in it is going to have to use no more than a teaspoon of syrup.

87 thoughts on “Mmmm… Mauby!”

  1. Well you live and learn everyday.Great website, because i was checking for the medicinal value of mauby and googled this site. I’m from Guyana and living in the Bahamas I always thought that mauby was a Guyanese drink(never put any research into it). I love mauby so much that i brought the bark from home to try over here forgetting to ask for the recipe before I did. A friend had to call home to get it and gave same to me which i tried and came out quite perfectly. Boil the bark with cinnamon sticks clove and nutmeg,add sugar and leave for about two days . Strain and sugar to taste add lots of ice and what do you know the most perfect drink.

  2. Well, i drink sweet and Dandy mauby so often i wondered if it was safe to do so. So here i am wondering if i will suffer from lowered blood pressure, oh well, love it too much to quit now. I must be honest though, i never appreciated it before, some are a bit too bitter for my taste buds, it was the Sweet and Dandy one that i fell in love with, i will drink no other. Readers might be interested to know that i’m in no way connected to that brand.

  3. Hi… I was pretty much wondering the same thing: if drinking too much of the syrup is bad for you. I’ve known about it now for years — I’m 37 — but only in January did I actually take up drinking the stuff. My cuz told me it’s good for weight loss…IDK. My kids love to drink it, so I decided to try it and found that it wasn’t all that bad…it took some getting used to.
    Now I am addicted to it…I drink no other drinks…everything is mauby….or water or tea. And by far Sweet and Dandy is THE BEST BRAND out there. I recommend that as a starter for anyone. I will try boiling the bark myself, cause they say that actually is the better thing to do, but yea


  4. Hi my name is Cinthia I produce mavi at home with a recipe well known for puertoricans like me. Or you can visit my web site to know more. I produce this great tasting mavi here in Florida, homemade like my grandpa used to make it. Refreshing until the last drop. Let me know if by any chance you will like to taste some of this mavi . not from a can , but from freshly made for your enjoyment. In my web site you will be able to known the history of the mavi( colubrina elliptica) endangered tree, and also recipes and perhaps an order so you can tste it right at home.

  5. My 7 year old son was experiencing frequent erections for weeks. After visiting the doctor and ruling out any health related matters, we turned to his diet. I indicated to the doctor that within the last couple of weeks my son developed taste for mauby, so much so, that he had to have it everyday, almost at every meal. Because he (my son) was not too thrilled with the frequency of these erections, I opted to take Mauby completely out of his diet. And just as you would have guessed, the erections ended. Since then I have heard from other doctors that practices alternative medicine, that Mauby is indeed used as a stimulant.

  6. I was remembering the taste of mauby and wondering if there were good cocktails that involved it. I found exactly what I was looking for here – thanks!

    Those above me, apparently, were looking to spam you with generic comments that have nothing to do with mauby.

  7. regarding its effect on sexual life. I was told the bitters effect your potency and can in some cases prevent a man from getting a woman pregnant. Not too sure how true this is, but I stopped drinking mauby for a while before getting my wife pregnant. So maybe it does effect the sperm.

  8. Love mauby too, I tend to like the traditional -old fashioned Barbados Mauby my grandmother would make, many of the mauby syrups on the market offer a slighty different taste some very bitter but my favourit mauby syrup from Barbados is the Delish Bajan Mauby, I find sweet and dandy good mauby syrup also but it’s not my first choice.

    A nice glass of cold mauby cools me down on very hot days here in Barbados.

  9. As the Puerto Rican that I am I love the refreshing taste of a good Mavi!! However I am now 7 months pregnant and havent had mavi for years. I have just found out that there’s this family that just moved to our city from PR and make their own Mavi. Now my question is, Is it harmful in any way for preganant women to drink mavi? I know it’s a fermented drink so it makes me wonder. I really appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

  10. Was hoping to find any suppliers in the U.K.
    Tried Mauby for the first time last night when a friend from Trinidad served some Rum with Mauby in it (after he fed us with a delicious Chicken Pilau he had cooked!)
    Really enjoyed the flavour and would like to track down a supplier in the U.K.

  11. Hi i am from Barbados, Mauby! WaaLosss! it too sweet! their r 2 things real Men must drink here in Bim! thats home made Mauby & Ginger Beer
    Mauby as a aphrodisiac! maybe, like all herbs it depend on the potency, so it mite be depending on were it comes from! A nice ice cool glass or glasses of Mauby will give u an appetite! the more u get the more u want & wend taken with a meal will put u to bed! (sleep) Man,Woman & Child!
    It must be made with Brown Sugar or nun at all!

  12. How to make Bajan Mauby!
    U will need: Mauby Bark, Nutmeg, Clove buds, Cinnamon or Wood Spice, Vanilla Essence and if U really want that Island vib, Coconut Essence (Angostura Bitters) if U like? and Cane Sugar (Brown)!
    Wash Bark, Then in a small saute pan of water about 2 cups of water place about 3-6 pieces of Bark as from the package! add about 1/4 tsp of Nutmeg freshly graterd, 4 Clove bubs, 1/8 tsp of Cinnamon or Wood Spice, boil for 1 hour @ a low heat ,if wather go’s too low just add more! U can use right away or later store in frigh, to mix: Strain about 1/4 cup to 5-6 cups of water add some Essence, sweeten to taste, add ice, & injoy. [Don’ts] do not try to boil tomuch Bark at 1 time, Ex.. 12 pieces in 2 cups of water! it will taste slimmy & will go bad! Do not use White suger it will not taste right! U can put more or less of the boil Liquid with the water!

  13. Instead of mixing water and mauby, use milk in place of the water. Put plenty of ice in it. Good for the heat we having these days. Havnt managed to find mauby in scotland. but if i do find it i go try it with soya or rice milk!

  14. I am wanting to buy a bottle of the Mauby Syrup, i cannot find anything about where to buy it in the U.S.A, I found one from the Carribean but the shipping was OUTRAGEOUS, why can’t i find any here in the U.S.A, do you know where i can find it?,please help. Thanks

  15. Here is a website that sells West Indian products, including the Mauby concentrate. I tend to favor the Matouks brand and I do buy this Mauby often. So easy to make a nice refreshing drink from it. Empty a few chilled bottles of water in a mug, add a small amount of the mauby concentrate to it, stir, and you are ready to drink! The concentrate is VERY sweet, so be careful not to add too much of it. Experiment with the mix. I think it is too sweet actually and kills the bitter taste of the mauby, which is a minty type of bitter and not bad at all. Don’t see any medical benefits really, just a nice alternative to soda.

  16. Love it ,love it… Grew up drinking it and all my siblings, and their kids and my daughter love it too, Can’t get my husband too though It’s Sunday here in NYC and I just made a pitcher.. {Sweet and Dandy in a pinch, since all out of bitters} When I was a baby sitter I introduced the kids to it, the little lady hates it 🙂 The boy loves it ,now every month I take him a bottle and he can’t get enough of it, I find it’s VERY refreshing and good for the ‘Hot Flashes’! Also Passion fruit drink is great too, Bajan mauby drinker! Yummoooooo!

  17. Hi there I am from St.LUCIA which is the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. We too share similar sentiments about Mauby . That includes for cleansing, for a good sex and for blood pressure . So next time you stop here don’t leave without your refreshing drink of Mauby

  18. I found Mavi’ in the Dominical Republic near Punta Cana where a farmer was selling it in capped bottles from a roadside stand. I bought like 12 bottles and put them in the fridge and they were great! I wish I could buy this in the US.

    I was born in Oriente in Cuba and I remember drinking a similar drink called Pru in my childhood. It may not be the same thing but it is also delicious. Why can’t someone import this to Miami?

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