Oriental Pru is a fermented soft drink very common in the eastern part of Cuba, particularly in the province of Granma. Its history can be traced back to the 1800s, to the years after the Haitian Revolution, during which French settlers, their slaves and free blacks settled in lands east of Isla Mayor of the West Indies, bringing with them their customs and traditions, including Oriental pru. According to oral traditions of Haitians living in Cuba today, it is a very refreshing drink that has medicinal properties.
They state that the pru gave them strength to complete hard farming tasks by lifting their spirits and healing their illnesses. Most producers agree that Oriental pru has four basic ingredients, roots or leaves, of Ubi vine (Cissus sicyoides), Chinese root (Smilax domingensis), soapberry (Gouania polygama) and Jamaican/sweet pepper, also known as allspice (Pimenta dioica). To these ingredients, sugar, other spices and a pru “madre” (or starter mixture) are added. The mixture undergoes light fermentation and is ready to drink in about four days. One liter of the batch is saved to use as the next pru madre. Batches made without a pru madre starter must undergo a much longer fermentation period. The drink is often prepared in familiar settings, and it is sold in the streets in east Cuba. Its pleasant taste is also found in some parts of Havana, where it was brought by people migrating to or visiting the capital city. In Bayamo, there is a retail outlet that sells bottled pru to the public. In Satiago de Cuba, there is also a small factory that bottles the drink. It is noteworthy that this drink, given its fermented quality, produces a lot of gas even well after the preparation process is complete. That is why it is not commonly bottled, though at least one cooperative produces and sells about 100 bottles (of 300ml each) per week. Although it continues to be prepared in traditional ways, in the province of Granma, there is pru produced in non-traditional ways that is available in small quantities under a brand name.