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Mabí Cacheo

This is one Dominican drink that really flies under the radar, and unless you ask for it you will probably not be offered it unless you travel to some of the more remote and “un-touristy” areas of the country. This is because the production of Mabí is almost entirely a cottage industry and so is almost never to be seen in supermarkets or shops, instead being sold by each maker on the street or to the local corner shops.  more...


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Despite its relative anonymity on the international scene, Mabí is truly a drink born in Hispaniola and has a long brewing history on the island, with references being made to companies brewing the drink as far back as 1883. The real creators of the drink, however, were the Taino and they were making and enjoying a version Mabí hundreds of years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Mabí is a slightly fermented non-alcoholic fizzy drink with a clear to light brown color. Its principal ingredients are water for its base, sugar, and the wood or fruit from the Soldierwood (Colubrina elliptica) tree which is known locally as Behuco Indio. This is the same tree that is used in the production of the cured rum drink Mamajuana.

The process begins by obtaining several cuts of the Soldierwood tree, which is normally found at high elevation. Cuts of about two feet in length are made from the branches and are stripped of the bark. The wood is then pounded to remove any remaining traces of bark. This mass of wooden fibers is placed to dry for two or three days in the sun before being added to the fermentation tank with other ingredients such as pineapple, sugar cane and corn. The mixture is left for about a week to ferment before it is ready to drink.

As Mabí is generally made by individuals in their own homes, there are many variations as to the fabrication process, the amount of sugar used, and the fermentation period. Brewers will keep a portion of the already fermented Mabí to start the fermentation process in their next batch.

Because of the different methods to brew Mabí, the drink has variations in taste and color depending on where you buy it. However, Mabí is usually sweet to taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste. While it is carbonated, it contains much less fizz than your average soda. It is incredibly refreshing and, similar to root beer, once you have a taste for it you will find yourself asking for another. A word of caution, however, some people find Mabí to have a slight laxative effect so it’s best to start with just one and see how you go.

Mabí is said to have a number of medicinal properties including aiding the digestion and reducing cholesterol. Despite having sugar in it Mabí is certainly a much healthier choice for refreshment than a regular soda.

While it is possible to find Mabí across the Dominican Republic, it is the eastern part of the country in El Seibo that has the reputation of producing the best quality beverage. It is probably here that the drink first started to be produced and was originally served at room temperature. These days, brewers make use of used beer bottles to store their product and most people enjoy it chilled.

Whether in El Seibo or any other part of the country, if you find yourself on the street and hear “tengo mabí behuco!” stop and ask the vendor for a cold one.

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