Bitters: Love Potion Number Nine
“It’s good for your penis!” boomed Doctor Mac, extolling the wonders of bitters—that ages-old Garinagu herbal tonic, aphrodisiac, and more. Mac poured a measured portion of yellowed liquid through a funnel into a recycled pint bottle. “It’s good for making babies!” He laughed and clenched a fist atop an upraised forearm to emphasize his point—Central American sign language for “virility.”
Bitters are made by soaking herbs like palo del hombre (man-root) and jackass bitters in 80-proof white rum or gin. They are available under the counter of many a bar and corner store, a liquid baby-maker known in Garifuna as “gífit.” Bitters are a cure-all used to treat everything from the common cold to cancer, sometimes taken as a daily shot to keep your system clean and your urine clear. And of course, bitters are a sure cure for impotency and infertility, according to any vendor of the stuff.
Belizean and Honduran Garinagu expats bring bitters back to the United States by the gallon (or did until the airlines’ ban on liquids, anyway). Until he moved to Chicago, the most famous bitters maker in the country was Doctor Mac, a formidable man also known as “Big Mac” who was credited with the births of many local babies for the fertility juice he proffered. He used to make a version for women, the bottles labeled either “boy” or “gal.”
Last time I was in the area, looking for the new king of the bitters crown, I was told “There’s a new kid on the block,” but not given any names. I did however, discover the bitters of “Kid B,” a spry 76-year-old from Silk Grass Village who spent 36 years as a welter-weight prize fighter in Chicago. Find him at Kid B’s Cool Spot in Silk Grass, just off the Southern Highway, north of the Hopkins turnoff.
Don’t forget; in addition to curing what ails ya, bitters can get you really, really wasted. Be careful with long-term, regular use, both for your liver’s sake and because some say the ingredients carry trace amounts of arsenic. Talk about a hangover.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition