RUM It's omnipresent in Dominican Republic. Here it is called "Ron" and you will find it everywhere (in the hotels, the airports, the stores....). Rum is made in the 15 rum roasting plants. The 2 most well-known are Barcelo and Brugal. Barcelo : Established in 1930 in Santo Domingo by Dom Julian Barcelo, Spanish native of Majorca, the factory and the distillery are nowadays implanted to San Pedro of Marcoris. In a few years the brand Barcelo became a reference among the local brands of rum, becoming one of the most important companies of Dominican Republic. During 1980s, the exports increased and the company began the distribution n the Caribbean and towards America. The rum Barcelo is exported from now on in more than 50 countries. Always in 1980 rum Barcelo created "Barcelo Impérial", a Dominican rum special reserve. Two decades later, it was elected better rum in the world, receiving 97 on 100, what is the highest score never awarded by the American institute of tests " Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago ". Brugal : Established in 1888 to Puerto Plata by Spanish André Brugal Montaner, the grandfather of the current manager, who had learnt everything in Cuba: the technique of the blending, the elaboration of the cane sugar, the fermentation... Nowadays Brugal is the third world producer, and been a member of prestigious label D.O.P , (PROTECTED DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN), the equivalent of the French AOC. It is also the most popular rum because its price is very reasonable, and it is the one as well as we use in Mamajuana The white rum is the youngest, of one in two years, the brown rum is older (15-year-old with their amber color). It's aged in the barrels which were of use to the famous wine of Spanish Sherry. The degree varies 38 ° in 43 °. Dominican rums are drunk either straight, or with coke : Cuba Libre, or with sprite : Santo Libre, or in cocktails, as Pina Colada (Rum, coconut milk, crushed ice and pineapple juice), Daiquiri (Rum, juice of lemon and crushed ice), … You can buy it everywhere including in local supermarkets.
Mamajuana This mixture of about ten different herbs, roots, barks, and wood of guaiac (used in medicine for centuries, called also ' bandaged wood ' in the Antilles) is very popular in Dominican Republic where it is considered as an elixir of youth with curative powers and aphrodisiac virtues. Mamajuana is used to cure almost everything on the condition of drinking a small glass every day (and no more!). The native Indian Tainos already drank it, the name might come from big bottles called Demijohn. Most of the restaurants serve it as a liqueur. Each place has its original recipe. You can buy it already done or in dry mixture to be prepared back home: but be careful as it is necessary to be very patient! Fill an empty and sterilized bottle, with red wine and the Mamajuana mixt. Put back the cork, let soak two weeks and empty completely the liquid because it will be too bitter to be consumed (we make this process only once, the first one). Now fill again the bottle, by adding according to your tastes, 1/3 of white rum or brown, 1/3 of red wine and 1/3 of honey or sugar cane syrup. Let soak minimum one month, more if possible. More Mamajuana ages, better it becomes, you can re – fill your bottle for years with the same mixture to Mamajuana, it will be better each time.
Beers The “Presidente” beer is Dominican Republic iconic brand, it’s a Pilsner that can be found everywhere as it’s part of the Dominican way of life. You can ask for it : “en su vestido de novia”, (meaning covered in frost). There is also a light Presidente beer. Presidente is the most well-known beer far before from the “Brahma”, “Bohemia” and “Quisqueya” beers.
Cigars Tobacco is the D.R.'s oldest crop, as the Talnos Indians already used to cultivate and smoke tobacco when Colombus arrived. It has long been a stable agricultural export, since 1531, Spanish began its commercial exploitation. The first manufacture of Cuban cigars was created in 1920, but the American embargo on the Cuban products allowed the takeoff of the industry of the cigar in Dominican Republic, with, for consequence, the establishment of significant American companies. The Dominican Republic became since 1994 the first world exporter of cigars. There is over 600.00 acres of tobacco plantations in the Cibao valley. Each year 80 million of cigars are rolled, primarily by the men, who prefer this activity with hard work in the fields. It can be a beautiful gift for people around you. It is possible to visit manufactures of cigars where you will be able to buy cigars by the box or individually. Some of them are also flavored with vanilla, rum, … Please note, as always, to avoid bad manufactured cigars it's always better to buy them in a certified cigar shop.
Painting You will find these colorful naive paintings everywhere, even on the beaches. This art comes from Haiti, but the Dominican renewed this style by adding new symbols from the Tainos indians. Please note that these paintings are mass produced so to acquire paintings of quality, you'll have to go to reputable art galleries (and be prepared to pay for them).
Tainos statues The originals statues from the pre-Columbian period which were cut in stone are forbidden to sale and are visible only in museums. The Indian replicas, representing fertility, happiness and other "wishes" , are now made in terra-cotta and can be bought in souvenir shops, there are very original presents to bring back, all the sizes exist (from 2 inches to 98 inches), they are generally black but can also be in grey, yellow or blue.
Dolls Following many colonization, there is not a particular Dominican face, therefore the ceramic dolls, made from red clay, with their outfits painted in traditional designs, are always FACESLESS. The dolls depict Dominican country life with some dolls balancing baskets or pots on their heads, some milling coffee, and some holding bouquets.
Amber This fossil is extracted in the northern part of the island (la Costa del Ambar, or coast of Amber). There are some of the richest mines of the world. Some people believed this semi-precious stone has magnetic capacities and a positive energy. So it was used as amulet against malefic influences. Today, this stone of a milky color "brown" and sometimes transparent is always weared as amulet. Amber stones can contain fossilized insects or parts of leaves. Certain amber stones can offer inclusions of several tens of million years old ! Be very careful where you buy it as it can be in plastic.
Larimar Another particularity of the island is the larimar. This light blue colored, semi-precious stone is also called "dominican turquoise". Until the beginning of the seventies, it was neglected by the craftsmen. Today, you can find it only in the Dominican Republic, generally in the form of pin, earrings, rings, crimped on silver or gold mountings. Be careful: street hawkers can propose them cheaper. .. but they are all fake !
Music The merengue, which is the national dance and which everyone can hear on all the radios, is played traditionally with an accordion, a drum and a “guira”: a metal instrument which resembles to a cheese grater. The bachata, appeared in the Sixties in popular environments, is characterized by its slower and more languorous rhythms and became the national variety since the Nineties. The regaeton is the new popular dance for the young people. It is preferable to buy CD in store as the copies sold in the streets are often of bad quality. To listen to the local radio from your computer : www.bachataradio.com
Food The basic dish is the "Bandera Dominicana” composed of rice, kidney beans and chicken. One also finds the “empanadas”: fritters furnished with local products, the “chivo guisado”: meat of goat marinated with origan and rum, the “sancocho”: ragout of 7 meats and vegetables prepared only on Sundays, a true institution; the “chicharrones”: marinated pork rind, the “pica pollo”: fried and seasoned chicken often accompanied by “tostones”: fried bananas plantains, and also “mondognos”: tripe of seasoned green lemon ox or pig, the “dulce de leche” preparation of condensed milk sugar mixed with coconut. And of course all sea'products : lobsters, crabs, shrimps and fish. The local production makes it possible to eat tasty fruit and vegetables all year.
Coffee For the coffee lovers, the Santo Domingo coffee will be an unforgettable memory associated with the holidays in Dominican Republic. The plantations of coffee trees scatter in 6 main regions of the country: Cibao, Azua, Bani, Ocoa, Barahona and Juncalito, from 600 to 1500 meters mountains. Every zone offers a different character to its arabica coffee. The exploitations are usually family business, that give many of their time to produce an organic without being certified (bio), but excellent coffee. The "wet" method is used to handle the collected beans (wash and fermentation); it is the most expensive way, but also the one who generates the best coffee. Thanks to the stability of the temperatures in the country, the harvests follow one another in the year according to regions. The industry Banileja CAFE SANTO DOMINIGO and CAFE INDUBAN are the most prestigious of the country, with 85 % of the market. For decades, the Dominicans give rhythm to their day by coffees of this company. The taste is even more faithful when the coffee is made in an Italian coffeepot. You can buy it everywhere, grounded or in beads.
Cacao It is one of the main agricultural productions of Dominican Republic as the country is classified among the first ten world exporters, thanks to a high-quality traditional and biological cocoa. Wide areas of cacao trees are cultivated on the island, in particular in the northeast, near San Francisco de Macorís. The culture of biological cocoa began in the 1980s in Dominican Republic. Today, this one is considered as being one of the best to the world. The biological cocoa is produced on quality lands, exempt from any pesticide or artificial fertilizer. This healthier product is transformed according to the same processes of fermentation as the other cocoa beans. Other semi-finished products are also proposed: liqueur, wine, powder, cocoa butter and chocolate.
Endemic Plants and animals The subtropical climate of the Dominican Republic favored the development of more than 8 000 sorts of plants, among which 1 800 are endemic. As orchids, with more than 300 varieties, or palm trees, of which the typical royal palm tree of Punta Cana. The Very rare Pereskia Quisqueyana, flower of Bayahibe discovered in 1977, Numerous birds, the most famous are: Cotica (or Cotora) a very sociable green parrot who is the national mascot, Gavilan, Ridgway’ Hawk, an endangered Dominican buzzard, Cigua Palmera, palmchat, a bird palm-kernel, cheerful and noisy often perched at the top of palm trees And also the Boa of Hispaniola, harmless as the other snakes of the island, The Iguana rhinoceros, characterized by horn-like scales on its snout and round pads crowning the head, numerous frogs and small lizards, as well as tortoises and insects.
You also can bring back : crafted-leather goods, wood carvings, jam, liquid vanilla, dried mango, …
Do NOT hesitate to bargain in the small shops on the beach, or at the flea market. And Enjoy....