What Puerto Rican doesn’t remember when your grandmother rubbed you down with alcoholado to relieve a fever?
Almost every home in Puerto Rico has a bottle of alcoholado. Either in their medicine chest or on the bedside table. It’s part of our Puerto Rican culture!
What is Alcoholado?
Alcoholado, Alcolado or Bay Rum is a blend of alcohol and natural extracts such as bay rum, menthol and eucalyptus. It is used locally to relieve fever, muscle aches, insect bites and more.
There are two varieties. The commercial type, like Superior 70. They began manufacturing in 1911 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. You can get it at any local pharmacy.
The other variety is handmade and homemade. That’s the method that Caribbean Soaps uses.
Many family recipes abound, from adding fresh aloe, camphor and menthol crystals, fideillo plant and many other ingredients.
What every alcoholado must have is “Malagüeta” leaves. Also known as West Indian bay leaf. Bay leaf is what gives its characteristic aroma and its analgesic and antibacterial properties. Sometimes, it is misidentified as eucalyptus, but that’s another tree species.
Uses of Alcoholado
– A bath to lower the fever.
– A friction for muscular pain.
– Smell it directly from the bottle for clearing your nose.
– Headache relief by applying a cold compress on the forehead.
– Aftershave to prevent razor burn.
– Relieve insects bites.
– Some people even use it as a perfume !!!!
How is Artisanal Alcoholado Made?
First, we select the best leaves of the tree and immerse them in ethyl alcohol for several months. The alcohol wil extract the essence of the leaf making it darker over time.
Then, we add more plant extracts, called essential oils. These oils are Eucalyptus, Mint, Camphor and others but we cannot divulge all our recipe!
Then, we make sure that the alcohol content is correct using a hydrometer.
Finally, before packing, we add Malagueta leaves and spices such as cloves and pepper to the bottle and that’s it!
Interestingly, alcoholado can be found in many parts of the Caribbean. They call it “Bay Rum” and the leaf, West Indian Bay. On the island of Dominica, they prepare an alcoholado similar to ours. It is known to regrow hair, stimulate the scalp and reduce dandruff.
Also, in St. John the leaf is distilled to prepare a well-known aftershave.