Take the texture of melted ice cream, add the briny flavor of algae, take a long gulp, and ask yourself: Are you feeling sexy?
The men of Jamaica are saying yes.
Across the Caribbean, Irish moss is hailed as a wonder seaweed, touted for its abilities to moisturize, vitalize, and, most notably, increase male libido. Native to Ireland, the red algae is packed with nutrition—10 percent protein and 15 percent mineral matter. During the Irish potato famine of the mid-1800s, the algae helped nourish the country’s starving constituents.
Brought by Irish immigrants to Jamaica, the moss now appears on the island’s rocks as well as in an elixir that’s notorious among men (and some women) seeking a boost in the bedroom. Locals will wash the moss, boil it with milk, then add vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. But the most important ingredient is produced by the moss itself: an extract called carrageenan. A natural thickener—dairy producers often add it to yogurt and cottage cheese—carrageenan is what provides the Jamaican Irish moss drink’s signature viscosity, which is not only thick but a little gluey.
There are many versions on the drink, but the most popular is the caloric behemoth known as Peanut Punch. The addition of nuts or nut butter provides an even higher fat and protein content, which makes it especially coveted by athletes, body builders, and those seeking exorbitant virility.
It should be noted that there is little to no scientific support backing a correlation between the algae and sexual prowess, but Irish moss does have plenty of other legitimate benefits. Studies show it fights against varicose veins, dysentery, certain ulcers, and even tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Perhaps some of the drinkers who visit Jamaica’s roadside “punch men” or knock back a Peanut Punch with whiskey and rum are simply looking to alleviate their ulcers. Perhaps not: As of recently, there is a canned version sold under the name “Big Bamboo,” in case anyone was unclear about the desired side effect.
Need to Know
In Jamaica, you can buy Jamaican Irish moss drinks at bars and the many roadside "punch men" stands. It's also available online.