Gifiti: The Best Roatan Souvenir

 

Guifuti, giffidy, geffidee… you can spell it however you want,  but gifiti is one of the best souvenirs to take home from your trip to Roatan.

Gifiti is a traditional Garifuna drink which is made by pouring rum over roots and herbs and letting it sit in the sun for a few weeks, and then BAM – you have a super strong and super medicinal-tasting brew (think Jagermeister on steroids) that’s said to cure just about everything from cramps to headaches to parasites and everything in between. However, if you ask the islanders, most of them will just tell you “it’s good for the wood” (like basically every other kind of alternative/bush medicine they use). One of the commonly used roots is called Man Strength, so I guess they are probably right.

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The photo above is the (nearly empty) bottle of gifiti I have at home right now. A tourist asked me to help them get some, so I got this for them from one of my boat captains and then the tourist changed his mind and didn’t want it. I felt bad that my friend had already gone through the trouble of making it so I bought it off him. My friends and I have been struggling to finish this bottle for almost 5 months.

Gifiti is a ‘shot’ drink. You don’t really sip it or mix it like a highball – you just pour it and drink it as fast as you can, and then make choking noises and crazy eye-rolls as you gag from the taste. The bottle I have right now has been horrible since they used Tatascan, the cheapest, crappiest rum on the face of the earth. It burns for about 5 minutes after you drink it. Gifiti can be kind of decent if you use good rum.

On Utila, there are a few bars that have ‘gifiti challenges’ – ie. you pay $20 and have to drink 4-5 shots of gifiti in a row and if you don’t puke or die, then you get a special t-shirt. These shirts are a coveted item as you can’t just buy them without doing the gifiti challenge. I saw some people doing it the last time I was on Utila and I just feel like I don’t need a shirt that badly. We don’t have gifiti challenges on Roatan, but you can ask at most bars for a shot of gifiti if you’d like to try it. Most of them have a bottle or two behind the bar (you probably won’t see it on a menu).

I think gifiti is a fantastic souvenir to take home from Roatan. It’s hyper-local, has a strong tradition in the Garifuna culture (which is a big part of the island) and you will be helping an islander make some money rather than paying for imported Guatemalan trinkets passed off as ‘Roatan Souvenirs”. There are a couple tourist shops that sell little bottles of gifiti, but I recommend asking around to see if you can get someone to make you a fresh one. Boat captains usually know someone who can make it for you. Ask for it without rum (just the roots and herbs) and then you can buy good rum to pour in it. Travel tip: customs and immigration won’t let a gifiti bottle with just roots and herbs out of the country, but if it’s the roots, herbs AND rum, it seems to go out no problem. (No idea why…?!)

So the next time you find yourself checking out Roatan keychains and fridge magnets, think about getting an authentic and unusual souvenir (with the added bonus of being ‘good for the wood’) in a bottle of gifiti. What better way to remember Roatan than by getting drunk?

– rika

 

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