“Berraquillo? That stuff doesn’t work. It’s her job to turn you on.”
My taxi driver was explaining his unyielding political views about this supposed aphrodisiac as we bumped over potholes and skidded around corners on our way to Bogotá’s central market. His argument was that I was being a fool, because there are better ways to get a hard-on. Thanks, but no thanks, Don Bernardo.
“I’m going to find that sex-juice-hard-on-maker the Colombians call berraquillo … and I’m going to drink it,” I declared. Then I paid him and got out at Bogotá’s central market, Paloquemao.
Esteemed connoisseur of drinks Juan Rafael Arango, of Colombia, did a formal tasting of berraquillo a few years ago and published his evaluation in a lifestyle magazine called Soho. “They say it boosts your sex drive, though I never found out because I wound up in the clinic, and toxicology still has yet to give me my results,” he wrote, apparently, from his hospital bed.
Thank you, Juan Rafael. At least I had a heads-up.
I found it where you would dread being served anything to eat or drink. Café Monserrat is buried in the meatpacking district, a landscape of blood and bones, which led me to believe I would soon be puking my guts out — if not for the view then for the smell. This particular section of the market was buzzing with butchers dressed in rubber jackets, pants and boots. Blood-stained men drank light beer at a plastic garden table and Vallenato music blasted out of speakers at intolerable volumes. Every once in a while, a rowdy hoot.
The last one — a true tub of a man — looked down at his pelvic region and made an air-thrust by pumping his two fists.
“This works, right?” I confirm with three butchers sitting on meat crates. “It’s not just some joke?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” responded one. Another bobbed his head, but no words came out. The last one — a true tub of a man — looked down at his pelvic region and made an air-thrust by pumping his two fists. The meat crate sagged under his thick thighs. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and they were drinking. Who else could I trust? Following the direction of a fat finger, I made my way toward a woman named Yadira Ramirez, whom I suppose you could call the maker-ess of hard-ons.
“You better sit down,” Yadira instructed me. “Just in case you get aroused.”
As Yadira whipped up the notorious slurry I’d been waiting for, she insisted it’s not just a drink for men, but for women too. “I’ve got girls who want to get pregnant. So, I make them one of these and then,” Yadira cuts off her sentence to take her hands and round them over her stomach in the shape of a baby bump.
“They get pregnant?” I asked, just to be sure.
“Mmm-hmm …” she groaned.
I watched her mix it up in a blender. No joke; this is her recipe:
First, borojó fruit. (Think tamarind paste.)
Then, vitamin mix.
One shot of Colombian brandy (something of a bootlegged rum).
A squeeze of honey.
And then here’s the kicker: one live black reservoir crab.
I tried to figure out what the deal with the crab is, and it appears to come from the Sisga reservoir outside Bogotá. Curiously, Yadira doesn’t keep the live crabs at her café. She goes to a man who sells eggs, and, on request, he will unassumingly bend down and fish out a plain brown cardboard box from the depths of his stand. It’s filled with crabs.
Some looked dead.
“Who buys this stuff?” I asked Yadira, as I forked over about $2 and took my first sip through a plastic straw. “I mean, is it just people trying to get hard-ons?” No, said Yadira. Her recipe is for stress and fatigue too, and not just for the butchers — she claims that even office folk stream in to have a berraquillo. How to describe the taste? Kind of like a strawberry milkshake. With a dusting of cinnamon on top. Dull. But not revolting.
So, yeah, if you don’t like the smell of pig’s blood or chicken blood or any blood, really; if loud accordion music or watching butchers roll around inside blue, 50-gallon drums pawing through cow hoofs and joints doesn’t turn you on, steer clear. And if you don’t want to take the risk of getting sick … DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT DRINKING THIS. According to a study at the University of los Andes, whether or not you get sick mainly depends on what kind of crab you get, and there are no options. You drink what they give you.
Let me tell you this, though: I didn’t get sick. And I really thought I would. I imagined myself bent doubled over a cold white bowl in the bowels of Bogotá’s central market, clutching my gut, vomiting my heart out and wishing I’d never heard of this damn elixir. But instead I found some lard-soaked rice, ordered a plate and knocked back a few beers to the musical pitter-patter of rain pegging the zinc roof overhead.
My only real disappointment?
Its aphrodisiac properties never seemed to kick in for me. Two hours later, I gave up and looked around for the number of that taxi driver who took me there in the first place. He seemed to know what he was talking about.
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