Bogotá has a “mercado de aromáticas” or aromatic herb market that sells almost exclusively medicinal plants. Two nights a week, it stays open all night, as the vendors bring in the cut plants in the chill of the night to prevent wilting. You can smell the market from two blocks before you see it: the pungent grassiness of rue, the sweetness of chamomile, the resinous spice of rosemary. It is one of the most magical places in Bogotá.
A few months after I arrived in Bogotá, I stumbled on an article in Business Insider about “the oldest cocktail in the world”, a Mojito ancestor called El Draque.
Mojitos are the selfies of the cocktail world – they’re everywhere, they’re alluring yet annoying, and they’re often not as good as you hope.
So I was about to turn the page when I noticed the recipe called for chuchuhuasi, a tree bark with medicinal properties. Just what properties, you ask? The article goes with the relatively tame “pain relief to boosting libido,” but other sites recommend it as a cure for: cancer, anemia, gout, diarrhea, flu, bronchitis, arthritis, rheumatism, spasms, epilepsy, irregular menstrual cycles, and stomach pain. Oh, AND it “rips panties,” “breaks cots” and “raises corpses”, which is to say it’s a potent aphrodisiac, at least according to the label of this Bolivian chuchuhuasi liquor.
I had to find this bark.