Sorrel or rum punch (sorrel spiked with rum) is a popular, refreshing drink in the Caribbean, especially during the holiday season.
Knowing this, I was particularly excited to get to the market and get my hands on some fresh sorrel so that I could find out how the drink compares when the flower calyces are fresh rather than dried.
In my minds eye I imagined market tables piled high with bright red blooms. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Instead the fresh flowers seem to be sold in bagged portions. It’s only day one as I am writing this (you will read this a few days later) so I’m holding out hope that there is a market stand somewhere on the island where the blooms are beautifully display instead of bagged.
The good news is that the flower calyces I bought were still fresh and crisp inside the bag. I paid about $2 EC (roughly $.80 US) for about 5-6 cups of flowers.
Turns out they make the most incredibly colourful, intense, and tangy drink. It’s so much more vibrantly red than the drink I make with dried flowers at home.
And look at the colour of the calyces when they are removed from the liquid!
It might be difficult to go back to dried next summer.
Here’s my standard recipe and the one I made today, but with so many tropical fruits and fresh spices available here I’m thinking of experimenting with some flavour combinations.
Do you have a favourite hibiscus/sorrel/rum punch/agua de jamaica recipe? Please share it.
The rooftop garden is finally set up for outdoor living and the heat has suddenly cranked up, which means it’s summer drink time. I’ve taken to making up bright red batches of roselle, aka sorrel (not to be confused with the cold hardy herb Rumex acetosa), a tangy and refreshing ginger infused hibiscus drink popular in the West Indies. I first learned how to make the Mexican version, agua de jamaica, about 10 years ago on a trip to Oaxaca City, but prefer the addition of ginger for extra zip.
Whatever the name, both drinks are made using the flower calyces of the tropical, heat-loving plant Hibiscus sabdariffa. About the closest climate for growing is Florida, so the drink doesn’t exactly qualify as local eating way up here in Toronto. If you’re making it in a tropical country then you’ll have access to fresh flower parts, but here in Toronto we’ve got a large Caribbean community so it’s easy enough to find packages of dried flowers in West Indian food shops. I get mine from a store that’s only a block away.
Optional variations on the drink include adding fizzy water (we like this best), orange zest, cloves, lime, or a couple of shots of rum to make rum punch.
- 1 cup hibiscus calyces (dried or fresh)
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar, honey, or agave syrup (or to taste)
- 4 cups hot water
- Steep hibiscus calyces, ginger, and sugar in hot water for several hours.
- Once cooled, place in the fridge and continue to steep for as little or as long as you prefer (up to 2 days).
- Strain out the plant parts and serve with ice.
Makes approx. 4 cups.
More Summertime Drinks
The heat has been oppressive around here over the past few days but since I am such a glass half-full person (uh huh) I choose to overlook the stink of my fellow bus passengers and the inability to breath air, and instead turn towards the bright side of intense heat: rapid plant growth and sun tea.
In theory, sun tea is supposed to be better than tea made using boiled water because the sun slowly, and gently infuses the water with all the goodness of the herbs instead of the bitter oils that are brought out with rapid brewing. But when the temperatures reach into the 30s and 40s C I could care less about all that jazz. Give me lazy! All the accomplishment with none of the effort. Sun tea is ridiculously easy to make, about as easy as making tea without the difficult chore of filling the kettle, turning the kettle on, waiting for the boil, pouring water. That is all much too HARD and who wants to be around boiling water at a time like this? Just get a glass jar, stuff it full of plant parts (I chose assorted mints), fill with water, and stick it in the sun. Go lay down with a wet towel on your head for a few hours. Pour and enjoy. Or add some ice and drink it cold.
It’s a scorcher out there today so I thought I’d share my recipe for a favourite summer refresher. I just came indoors after a full day out in the garden and this drink was exactly the right cool down treat.
- 1 frozen banana, chopped
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 2-3 cups chocolate rice milk (less milk makes a thicker shake)
- 1/2 cup plain yoghurt (this is optional but makes a smoother drink)
- Optional: 1 tbsp cocoa powder (makes an extra chocolatey drink)
1. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend.
2. Pour into a chilled glass.