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. New Jersey’s a relatively large place, Nicole. You’re probably better-positioned to locate a local Caribbean grocery in your neighborhood than I. However, if you live/work near your NOC in Franklin Lakes, Sam’s Caribbean Marketplace is somewhat nearby in Long Island. They list mauby concentrate among their products — didn’t see any bark, however — and you can order online from them as well.

  2. I am looking for proof that mauby has benefits.

    There is a rumour that mauby has a negative effect on men’s penis’ as it “kills it.” However, everyone that I heard say this also said that it wasn’t true. But the people that do not like mauby encourage this rumour as an excuse not to like or drink mauby. I am out to prove them wrong.

    If only I can get info from research that proves that mauby absolutely does not have any negative effect on people. Please forward any info to me. Thank you kindly.

    By the way, I love mauby-it’s all I drink.

  3. Proving a negative is tricky, Anil. It’s difficult to say that mauby doesn’t have any negative effects. This is the first I’ve heard of it being blamed for erectile dysfunction, however… quite contrarily, it’s often claimed to be an aphrodisiac.

    For medical documentation of its benefits, well, there’s the study from the West Indies Medical Journal, cited above, whose abstract concludes:

    These results suggest that regular consumption of either coconut water or mauby but particularly a mixture of the two is effective in bringing about the control of hypertension.

    I’ve trawled some databases and have only located a single instance in medical literature which may speak to potential detriments of mauby. A. Hassiotis and J. Taylor, writing in The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science, [Br J Psychiatry] 1992 Sep; Vol. 161, pp. 404-7, presented an article entitled “Psychotic illness following ‘mabi bark tea’ consumption.” OK… “Psychotic illness” sounds pretty bad, I’ll admit, but unfortunately the Br J Psychiatry doesn’t have full-text articles online from before 2000, and my library doesn’t carry it either, so I can’t actually read the article itself. The abstract speaks of a psychotic episode “following a brief period of high consumption of a drink made from Colubrina plant extract (mabi bark),” but without access to the article, it’s difficult to assess. For one thing, what does “high consumption” mean, exactly? Worth noting, there were three letters submitted in response to the paper, so it may be that other practitioners questioned whether mauby was at fault. If you’ve access to copies of The British Journal of Psychiatry circa 1992-1993, I’d be interested to learn the details.

    You say that mauby’s all that you drink… how to you prepare it? Do you use a syrup, or boil-up your own from bark? If the latter, what’s your recipe? Do you ferment it, or drink it fresh? Use coconut water?

  4. I just bought a bottle of the concentrate in Linden NJ at “Foods International” This web page is the best I’ve found for describing what it tastes like, other recipies, etc. Thanks!

  5. I was hoping to find a recipe or something…

    My aunt gave me a packet of dry mauby mix. It’s got mauby bark, cinammon, clove, bay leaf and aniseed. You’re supposed to boil the ingredients until you get a strong tea, strain out the woody bits, add sugar and (this is what I’m a little unclear on) you also need a few drops of aniseed essence as well as another essence. Can’t remember if it’s kola or vanilla.

    You can leave the mauby ‘tea’ in a covered jar in the fridge and add your water and sugar as you go. There’s no need to strain the bark out until you’re ready to serve. It tastes better the longer it steeps. You also don’t need to mix all your mauby at once since it lasts ages in the fridge. Not sure exactly how long it’ll last because it’s always all gone way before it can go bad!

    I’ve never had the fermented version so can’t comment. Hadn’t even heard of it until today and I’ve been drinking mauby over 30 years. I have mixed it with all sorts of alcohol though. Nothing really works. I’ve come to the conclusion that mauby is a pure standalone beverage.

    I find the bottled concentrate too sweet (or if the sweetness is correct, too watery) but the flavour is close enough to ‘proper’ mauby that it is worth the convenience, especially when it’s hella hot outside and you need some mauby NOW! But however good the concentrate may be, it’s still not even in the same league as Aunt Vi’s homemade mauby. Aunt Vi rocks, ask anyone 🙂

  6. I picked up some mauby bark from the grocery recently, so I’ll try to make some of my own proper mauby to compare against the concentrate. Of course, that means picking a recipe. This one from the Virgin Islands calls for a marjoram, rosemary and orange peel, as well as half a yeast cake to ensure that it ferments. This Trinidadian recipe is much simpler. An Anguillan recipe calls for bay leaves and ginger. Puerto Ricans like it fermented too, but it sounds like it’s likely to ferment from wild airborne yeasts without the addition of a cake.

    Sad news that in 30 years of trying you haven’t found much use for it as a mixer, Trini. I’ll probably try making a fermented version of your aunt Vi’s recipe, in the theory that it may be the one sure way to introduce alcohol to mauby 🙂

  7. I was hoping to find a recipe for making maubi – fresh Barbados style- not that horrible syrup.

    In addition my search included any nutritional analysis about this wonderful beverage and was delighted to see the reference to the study from The University of the West Indies.
    Thanks much.

  8. When I was in England a Caribbean immigrant served a friend of mine a drink made of mauby syrup. I developed a taste for it, and then laughed as I served it to my friends. The drink is 1 part syrup to 4 parts water, and it is sweet, but has a peculiar after taste – hence I laughed as my friends encountered the after taste. I have not come across this drink since I’ve been home. Are there any Caribbean grocery stores in South Carolina? The one I went to was in Leicester England. Also are there any side effects I should be cautious of? I saw a link to medical benefits, and will follow-up on that page. Thanks for posting this site.

  9. Mawbi … I heard from an islander from the Caribbean currently residing in Killeen, TX that mawbi is good for blood circulation (lymphadema/lower leg). If this is indeed so, can you please contact me and help me locate a marketplace where I can make a purchase. He is a respected knowledgeable elder. I have no reason to disbelieve him, I’m just trying to do what is required to attain enlightenment and encourage my body’s natural healing ability to circulate lymph flow normally.

    Y’all help me out, cause I’m moving towards the goal of reaching my highest ground in ordered footsteps provided by the creator as I am single-mindedly seeking the Buddha. I do not wish to begrudge my own life, but I do wish to study to show myself approved, and have physical manifestations of actual proof that reflect my emotional and spiritual beliefs.

  10. Sorry, blackwoman and makalani, but the only medical study I’ve found regarding the medicinal properties of mauby / mawbi / mabi / etc. is the one from the University of the West Indies, in which drinking mauby was shown to lower blood pressure. No information on its applicability to lymph-related disorders, I’m afraid. I just ran another few searches of the Medline database and nothing new has popped up.

    Oddly enough, I grew up in Denton, Makalani, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve been back. Don’t remember any Caribbean groceries in town, but a Mexican grocery that carries Puerto Rican products might have mauby bark, if you’re interested in trying it. Or, you could order some from the place recommended by Alex Q in my mauby-making post. They offer 3/4 oz. bags for 75¢, or 1 1/2 lb. bags for $10.00.

  11. Essekibo,

    Is the UWI study true? Fair question, I suppose… can’t tell if the research was peer reviewed — doesn’t look like it — and I’ve found no follow-on articles from the researchers on the subject. I honestly have no idea of the reputation of UWI’s med school or the authors, either.

    I’m certainly not in a position to validate or invalidate the research, but until someone provides information contradicting it, I suppose my own position would be to look favorably upon their results. I wouldn’t forego more proven medical treatments for high blood pressure without a good reason to do so, but given the broad regional consumption of mauby with no reported adverse affects (unless, it seems, you drink it by the barrel) consumption of mauby and coconut water certainly doesn’t seem harmful, and might allow one to reduce one’s dosage of beta blockers, for example.

    Bottom line is that I’m not a doctor, and would encourage close monitoring if you plan to explore alternative therapies.

  12. Mauby is very popular here in Trinidad and Tobago, we enjoy it with lunch or with a snack and works very good when the temperature is high. I boil the bark with anniseed, cinnamon and bay leaf and mix it with water and sugar. I always add some mauby syrup when i’m making a large bucket for a gathering at the mosque and people will ask how my mauby is so tasty. Every grocery sells it here at 3.50-400dollarsTT. [1US=6TT] for a packet.

  13. Hello all,

    I was doing what many others have done..seeking the “fountain of mauby secrets”, not the least being where does it come from, how is it propagated, where can i get a seeds or a plant? Can I grow a plant/tree indoors here in Winnipeg, Manitoba? Imagine my surprise to find that this tree is endemic to the southern states, like the persimmon. I was pleasantly surprised and figure that sooner or later, I can score some seeds. Does anyone from Trinidad remember “Y’s Mauby syrup”? To me it was a thousand times better that the Matouks version. Alas it is no more as Y’s; the company seems to have gone out of business and taken its secrets to the Great Bankruptcy Receiver in the sky.

    So if anyone knows the secrets of the Y’s mauby syrup, I would be willing to trade my first born for the privilege of that particular secret. I agree that Mauby was and is one of the great unsung secrets of the Caribbean. The rest of the world will think that we are nuts, after all someone is now commercially marketing a Babando drink…sigh, is nothing sacred!


  14. Thanks 4 the site. I just thought let me see if there is anything on Mauby and where it comes from. The unsweetened bitters is also available and I found Star brand syrup is not 2 sweet and just right. Not all Islanders add anise but 4 sure some stick spice. Had a taste of fermented in Guyana did not care 4 it. Had a sort of burn cane taste. Boiling water can be poured on the bark with spices and left to steep, then mix as needed Mauby and beer don’t taste bad. Continue to enjoy your mauby y’all.

  15. go into any store in brooklyn.. any caribbean store or west indian market and you can find mauby bark.. actually most caribbean stores in the US sell mauby bark and mauby concentrate.. it is an aquired taste though.. my jamaican bf hates it but we trinis love it.. so I have that and some sorrel to make for the new year..

  16. We are Vincentians, and love Mauby. It is a favourite of most Vincentians I know, because it is so popular there. Mauby is best made from scratch, with the bark, with some added vanilla essence and cloves, then chilled. UmHHH!!!


  17. Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on this thread. There’s a lot of mauby-drinking on the internet 🙂

    @ Shaleeza: thanks for the recipe. I made mine with a few more ingredients, including a bit of yeast.

    @ Ash: I’ve not seen mauby tree seeds for sale anywhere. Don’t know what the import/export restrictions are like, but your best bet would probably be a Florida-based nursery that specializes in native plants. You’d want Colubria arborescens (Greenheart) or Colubria elliptica (Soldierwood) — frustratingly, both species seem to be identified as the source of mauby bark. Perhaps they are.

    @ Fran: Mauby and beer? I’m guessing a light lager of some type, and not a heavy ale. Sounds… interesting 😉

    @ Alina: Sorry, but I haven’t found any in-depth nutritional information about mauby online. Seems like something the folks at UWI would have researched, though. If you discover anything, please let me know.

    @ Viv: Have a look at the recipe I used and let me know if it sounds right to you. So you’re just adding some drops of vanilla extract, or steeping a vanilla bean with the mauby?

    @ Cacey: bottoms up!

  18. Wow, I picked up some mauby at the store (living in brooklyn has it’s advantages) and I must say that one of the best tastes I have ever had.

    I just had a Pint Glass, Small Dribble of Mauby, filled it up with seltzer and cracked ice. Perfect, or so I thought – then I tried adding a little (plain ol’ cheap brand) spiced rum, Mmmm, Amazing.

    I wish more bars had it because that is a greatly refreshing drink.

    Here is a experiment: After we added Angostura bitters it seemed like there was much less bitter aftertase. Try it for yourself. Do bitter flavors cancel each other out? Personally, I like the bitter, so no Angostura.

  19. In the book “The Color Purple” they mention this drink in the part where the main character goes to Africa to find her roots. I am from Puerto Rico and it was a surprise to read about Mavi or Mauby coming from Africa. Does anyone have any info on this?

  20. Hi. This is a great post. It will probably keep ressurecting forever because there’s not much info in English about mavi. I live in NYC and wanted to let everyone know I found mauby bark at Western Beef in Brookln. The package says, “West Indian Herbs,” and “Packed by Natrex Mfg. Company.” Gosh I love that place. There’s enough international food to keep a foodie busy and experimenting for years. Anyway, I’ll make mavi for the first time next week. Have fun everyone!

  21. I’m from Barbados, and recently my mom visited me and some of the things she brought me was mauby bark and spices. The way she did it was to boil the bark with spices (cinnamon stick) and nutmug, when cool added the brown sugar and mix essence. I love the drink, especially in a tall glass with lots of ice. My girlfriend is Canadian and she could not understand who drinks this thing some of us can’t have enough of. But anyway, remember: the bark and the spices can be boiled over again, so please don’t dispose after just one boiling.

  22. Err, like I said, “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.”

    Wikipedia says pretty much the same thing, but it cites Slakethirst as a source, so my referencing it could get a bit recursive.

  23. It was nice to read the article on one of my favorite drinks. In fact I have glass of Maubi sitting next to me. That is homemade maubi not from concentrate. My parents are Barbadian and Maubi has been a standard drink in our household for as long as I remember. We purchase the bark here in Miami, FL from the West Indian stores or Barbados directly. The syrup is far from the real thing. So to take you out of concentrate misery I am going to give you a family recipe, but you need the bark.


    50 grams (2 oz) mauby bark
    12 cups of water
    piece of mace (the brown thing that covers the outside of the nutmeg)
    brown sugar (about 2 lbs.)
    large piece cinnamon (spice)
    few cloves
    piece dried orange peel

    Boil mauby bark in water (about 4 cups)with spice, cloves, mace and orange peel until liquid is very bitter (about 1/2 hour). Strain it off, add the rest of water and sugar until very sweet. Bottle the cooled liquid, leaving neck of bottle unfilled for froth. Cover and leave for 3 days. Serve very cold.

    Hint: If you like a cocktail, add a little Falernum to your glass!

    Hope this helps!

  24. I am from Guyana and was introduced to mauby as a child. For me a slice of coconut bread with a glass of mauby was divine. Holds true to this day sixty years later. Was surprised to see so many people into this bitter sweet concoction. Just love it. Would sure like to know more about its medicinal properties. In the mean time let us raise our glasses and drink to a bark divine. Cheers. MBF

  25. Mavi (how its spelled here in PR) is sometimes made into a Maviada, a mix a Mavi and rum. It’s nice and takes some of the edge of the Mavi flavor. Proportions are to taste and put over ice.

  26. I was in the DR and tried to bring back some roots from a producer of the products but they took them from me at customs. I did see that it was made by adding the bark to water and it would ferment very quickly. Then it was sweetened. Would the dry bark from the Carib market—if I could find it—work the same way?
    I am in NJ and have friends in the DR, but I don’t want to get anyone in trouble smuggling it in. Can I buy it here like the roots I bought there? Thanks, Vic

  27. I made mauby recently, following a recipe I found online, forget where, and then fermented it with kombucha. I used about 1/4 the amount of sugar required, using enough to feed the kombucha. Now that it’s finished brewing, it’s far too bitter to drink alone and will need additional sugar (I’ve used agave syrup thus far) to make it more palatable. I can’t say I’ve really adjusted to the taste yet. I think the kombucha fermentation made the bitter more metalic tasting than normal. For “normalcy” I’ve bought prepared, bottled versions of mauby from my neighborhood stores in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY. I find these preparations too sweet for my taste, but the bark’s bitterness is so strong, it really calls for a high amount of sugar. And I’m no wimp with things bitter!

  28. I found this page while looking for historical information on maubi… I was hoping to find out how “old” it is — how long people in the Caribbean have been brewing it. As a writer I would like to know if I can give a character some in the 1790s. Does anyone know the origin?

  29. First of all I would like to thank you all for educating me on Mauby Syrup, you might get a kick out of this. I recieved my free bottle of Mauby Syrup from a friend at the coustoms counter that was taking from someone at the airport. I have had it in my refrigerator for sometime. (never opened) need less to say I was having an eggo this morning to find out I didnt have any syrup, so I used my Mauby Syrup thinking it was just good old syrup. It tasted like cough medicine horable can you tell me is it just for drinks or what………….Tom by the way it was made by Country Boy Foods, Inc. Building #17 Unit 9 Wildey Industrial Estate, St Michael Barbados Tel #246-427-6375.

  30. My uncle makes the best mauby. I am not sure how he makes it. But here is how I make it. I think it is the same way, but he must and another spice or essence that I don’t have in my kitchen. I live in Bergen County NJ. I have purchased mauby bark from a local Korean grocery store in Teaneck NJ on Teaneck Road. They also have Sorrel.

    I just came back from Tobago yesterday. The first thing I did this morning was boiled my mauby bark with aniseed; the vendor put the right amount of bark and aniseed. My aunt purchased this for me in a local outdoor market in Tobago. I added another spice to it that she purchased in the market. I am not sure what the spice is.

    I do not measure the ingredients but maybe you can start with this, for the most part, it is made to taste.

    First step, make the mauby mixture:
    2 oz mauby bark some aniseed and spice
    4 cups water
    bring to a boil then cool
    then bottle and put in the fridge. Use the mixture as needed.

    Second step, make the drink, use an egg beater to beat the water mauby mixture and sugar until a froth forms at the top. I do not measure the ingredients but maybe you can start with this, for the most part, it is made to taste. If you like it bitter add less sugar and water, if you like it sweet, add more sugar and water, etc…

    Water (3 cups)
    Mauby Mixture (1/2 cup)
    Kola Essence or Vanilla (Just 1 drop)
    Sugar (to taste)

    Sorry that I do not have the measurements. I just keep adding the mabuy mixture to water and sugar until I like the taste. Since I did not have any kola essence, I used vanilla essence. My husband who is not from any Island loved it.

  31. syrup mavi? gross, i say brew it urself and let it ferment in your basement for a month, it will taste DEVINE. Here in Rhode Island they do sell a commercial kind in a glass bottle that is carbonated and actually tastes decent. I personally do prefer the home made, non carbonated type. Easily found in new york sold by the glass or gallon. I can totally see how it could possibly lower blood pressure etc. if you drink the traditional mavi, it feels like your muscles are really relaxed after a glass of it, which i’ve always found odd because it has no alcohol content (maybe minimal if your ferment it long enough but i doubt it) but overall THE BEST drink to have in the summer. My local hispanic market also sells it, during the summer months when its “in season”

  32. Never let my mauby ferment. I usually have it within a week. I always thought is was not good after such time. I do love my MAUBY but many of my guests, particularly my beloved Jamaican friends, have no interest in the beverage. I am surprised.

  33. I’m partial to mauby syrup personally… particularly Matouk’s from Trinidad. Recently however my mom gave me a jug of mauby steeped from the bark and it’s quite strong so I’ve been able to really stretch it and make it last. The bark’s at the bottom of the jug so I plan on just adding some more hot water and letting the new brew steep some more.

    Incidentally, Matouk’s brand syrup can be found at most Korean green grocers in Brooklyn for those of you interested who may be a short drive away. It’s very good.

  34. first time i ever read a blog page to the end and since i am a mauby expert i will come back and drop a recipe i have some with me here in germany and when i concoct the business i will defomulate it live here first i promise nuff respect to those in the know we will talk the things them

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