The sudden shortage of guayaba – or guava – juice on the shelves of grocery stores and pulperias throughout Granada acts as a silent tribute to this city’s newest inventor, Dr. Edmundo Miranda, a 66-year-old podiatrist who moonlights as a bartender in the privacy of his family.
Miranda is the father of the “Macuá,” a tasty combination of white rum and citrus juices that was recently named Nicaragua’s official national cocktail.
The Macuá – a mixture of 1.5 parts Flor de Caña Extra Lite (white rum), 1 part guava juice, 1 part orange juice, lime and sugar – bested 95 other aspiring nationaldrink potions that were sampled by an international panel of judges last month.
The idea of the Macuá, named after a tropical bird native to Central America, is to do for Nicaragua what the margarita has done for Mexico, and the mojito for Cuba, according to contest organizers Flor de Caña rum and the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR).
Plus, Miranda says with a good-natured smile, as a doctor he can attest to the drink’s …err…ah …“health benefits.”
“It’s got a lot of vitamin C, and guava is a natural anti-parasitic, which will be good for tourists,”Miranda said.
Asked just how many Macuás the doctor recommends per day, to “stay extra healthy,” Miranda’s smile gives way to a belly laugh: “Six ought to do it,” he said, adding that – as a secondary benefit – the drink also helps foreign tourists speak Spanish.
Like tourism boosters who are reinventing Nicaragua’s image as a softer and moreinclusive place,Miranada wanted to help do his share with the Macuá, which he describes as an “anti-macho” and “completely feminine” drink.
“I wanted a drink that appeals to women, too,”Miranda told The Nica Times one day recently, as he poured two Macuás over ice into cocktail glasses sitting on his desk, at 12:04 p.m. (technically afternoon, and therefore not an inappropriate hour for a cocktail).
“This is a refreshing drink for the heat and humidity of Nicaragua,” Miranda said. “Any hour is a good time for this drink. Even breakfast.”
To ensure its feminine appeal, Miranda used as a test market the four women in his life: his wife, two daughters and granddaughter – four women, he says, who are non-drinkers.
Starting with a combination of Flor de Caña Extra Dry,Miranda mixed, stirred and passionately tinkered with his concoction until he settled on Extra Lite and had all four women nodding in unison.
Though Miranda says he often uses canned or boxed juices “for the sake of convenience” (Jumex guava juice, Parmalat orange juice and bottled lime juice), he has also made the drink from all natural ingredients, making it a truly 100% home-grown Nicaraguan cocktail.
One of his favorite ways to serve the drink is frozen, with a slice of orange and a green cherry, “to represent Nicaragua’s nature.”
Gotta be Guava
When Miranda saw the contest rules for creating a national drink (original, uniquely Nicaraguan, pleasing to the taste buds, and internationally marketable) he immediately thought guava had to be a key mixer ingredient.
Not only does guava – which Miranda describes as a “tropical Nicaraguan pear” – have a pleasing taste and aroma, but it also grows wild all over the country. Plus, it reminds the doctor of his childhood.
“When we were in primary school, sometimes my friends and I would play hooky and run off down to the lake and pick guava off the trees by the shore,” Miranda said, sipping his nostalgic cocktail.
“But don’t get the wrong idea, we were serious students otherwise.”
Miranda notes that because guava is sold as a canned juice, it can be bought by bars, restaurants and distributors anywhere outside of the country, making it an internationally marketable drink.
The doctor admits that there was some stiff competition in the drink contest, and thinks guava gave him an advantage in the end. He even claims that some of the cocktails tasted better than his.
But some, like a drink made with Pithaya (a sweet cactus fruit available only in this region) were too hard to market abroad, while others, made with sugarcane, were too similar to drinks that already existed.
Still other aspiring national drinks never made it off the drawing board, such as Johnny Walker mixed with Flor de Caña and Tabasco sauce (Walker’s Revenge); Sambuca and 7-year Flor de Caña (TheSam-7); and Rojita soda with black label rum (“Rojinegro” – a reference to the Sandinistas).
Dealing with Kudos
Winning the national-drink contest has been a bittersweet experience for Miranda.
Though he’s entertained by all the congratulatory hollers he gets on the streets of Granada, as well as all the attention from national and international journalists, Miranda wonders why all the hubbub for a cocktail.
“In 1984 I attended a Central American podiatry congress in Guatemala. Of the 50 doctors who submitted their research, my research, which represented 14 years of hard study and sacrifice, was named the best in Central America,” the doctor said.
“That was the best achievement of my life, but no newspapers carried the story, and no one said anything congratulatory to me.
When I told my mother about it, she said: ‘good, keep studying.”
But now, by mixing guava and rum, the doctor has become a local celebrity of sorts.
“Now people yell to me on the street: awesome drink!”Miranda said with a laugh. As part of the award package for inventing the Macuá, Miranda won $1,000 and a trip to a five-star hotel in Miami, where he will be taking his wife next month for their “second honeymoon,” to commemorate 45 years of marriage.
However, Miranda says, the hotel might be at risk of losing a star –at least in his book – if the lobby bar doesn’t serve his famous potion.
“It can’t be a five-star hotel if they don’t have Macuás,” he said with a laugh.