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Hibiscus (aka Jamaica) in Mixed Drinks


Chris Amirault
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For the benefit of anyone wondering about the "thickening" quality of hibiscus, let me remind you that, biologically, it's related to okra, ergo the musciliganius (sp?) quality of the juice.

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I've seen hibiscus syrup in two bars:

At The Violet Hour in Chicago, one of my favorite drinks is the Summer Old Fashioned (a classic OF with hibiscus syrup). They also use it in a very tasty drink they call the Eyes Wide (Bulleit Bourbon, Grapefruit, Ginger Juice, Raspberry Syrup, Hibiscus Syrup).

At Le Bar du Plaza Athénée in Paris, they have a section of the menu devoted to drinks made with hibiscus syrup. Here's a picture. I had the Rose de Chine...a sort of hibiscus mule. I'm not normally a vodka drinker, but the muddled fresh ginger and the addition of the delicious flowery syrup was worth it.

Edited by KD1191 (log)

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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  • 3 months later...

I finally got around to making some Jamaica syrup over the weekend..

used one cup of flowers to 3 cups of water. Brought it up to a boil, then steeped for two hours. I then strained that. At this point, I still had not added any sugar. I took one cup of the brewed 'tea' and added 1 cup sugar. Brought it up to a boil, then let it cool. I had my hibiscus syrup (the remainder was sweetened enough to make tasty glass of 'agua refreseca de jamaica')

Now, onto cocktails.. My first try was simply to add a squirt to my regular margarita. It was OK. But after that, I made a simple substitution. I simply used the jamaica syrup instead of the Cointreau. I am not sure what to call this, but I thought it was pretty tasty. If I had some champagne or sparkling wine on hand, I would try cocktailgeek's French 75 riff. I would also like to try out mkayahara's drink that uses the Appleton rum.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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  • 5 months later...

I just returned from Asia with a bottle of Vietnamese "Hibiscus Brandy". There's no English on the bottle anywhere, but the menu at the restaurant where I bought it (they make all of their own liquors/liqueurs, also brought back a somewhat abrasive-compared to Apry-Apricot eau-de-vie) said it was simply, "Clear brandy distilled from Hibiscus flowers." I'd put the proof at around 80 (again, nothing on the label to indicate this, just my best guess). I'm assuming it's a rice-based product. It has an inherently floral note, but it's not at all overpowering, or even at the forefront.

Any suggestions for use?

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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I've been looking everywhere for a good source for WHOLE dried hibiscus flowers so I can recreate THIS at a non-usurious price for my guests. If anyone has a good source for whole, non-crumbled or mistreated hibiscus flowers, please let me know. There's no doubt this can be done on one's own, without having to pay $1/flower.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Here in the Caribbean we call it sorrel and it's traditional at Christmastime. I have a bottle in my refrigerator now and a supply of dried sorrel for making another batch before Christmas. Rum is often added after the first steeping but I usually leave that out so it's kid-friendly and then make cocktails with the sorrel for the grownups. We make it fairly rich and syrupy so it needs to be diluted before drinking if there's no rum in it.

I serve it three ways. First way is as a liqueur (if it has rum) after dinner or in the afternoon with a thin slice of really rummy black cake. Or, if it's non-alcoholic, I dilute it with club soda or water and serve it over ice. Very refreshing. Or I make a cocktail with rum and a splash of club soda...serve on the rocks with a squeeze of lime. All are fantastic.

My recipe for making sorrel is here.

I also used sorrel to make a sorrel and sorghum glaze for my Thanksgiving ham this year and it was lovely. That recipe is here.

I would think any shop that catered to a Latin American or Caribbean clientele would carry dried sorrel flowers, especially at this time of the year.

Abigail Blake

Sugar Apple: Posts from the Caribbean

http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone." Big Night

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Typically, I see jamaica in a good sized bag of flowers, for a few bucks a bag. I'm guessing you've gone through those bags and there aren't many per bag that would work for you? The only alternative to sorting that comes to mind - would it be possible for you to source flowers in volume when they are in season and dry the flowers yourself? Given that you're drying them, you may be able to get them when they're past what's salable by florists?

I'd like to second the idea that jamaica pairs with margarita flavors. I made some jamaica sorbet and it seemed to benefit from some fresh lime juice. From there a little tequila to, uh, help the texture while freezing (yeah, that's the ticket!) seemed like a natural move. The result was great.

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The dried Jamaica available at my local Mexican markets is crumbled and in pieces. Maybe I'll see if a Carribean market has better ones. Thanks for the suggestion.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I make a hibiscus syrup at my bar too. I like to shake a margarita and drizzle the syrup on top. It's a nice presentation with the syrup slowly dissolving as it sinks to the bottom. The flavor is a great substitute for cranberry.

Ricky :D

ps. Jamaica (ha-mai-kuh) was confusing people when we told them what it is, so we just call it hibiscus now. Haha.

Striving for cocktailian excellence and always learning.

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Found a Caribbean/African market in West Philly that had bags of dried "sorrel flowers" for CHEAP, and they appear to be in relatively good condition. I bought one small bag (for $1.79) and have brought it home. Some time over the next few nights I will make a hibiscus syrup from the broken flowers and rehydrate the whole ones. Anyone have any suggestions on whether I should rehydrate the whole flowers in the syrup, or in warm water first and then transfer them? I thought I could make the syrup by putting the broken bits into a giant 9cm tea ball and then be able to fish it all out easily. Should I boil the hibiscus for the syrup in water and THEN add the sugar, or should I just boil the bits right into a simple syrup? So many questions and chemistry was never my strong suit. If anyone has some ideas, please let me know. I'd love to make those lovely Hibiscus Champagne cocktails for New Year's Eve...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Katie - this is how we make sorrel drink in the Caribbean:

Sorrel Drink

You can usually find dried sorrel in shops that sell West Indian products or in Latin shops, where it may be called flor de jamaica. Feel free to play with the spicing according to your personal preference. To make Mexican agua de jamaica, omit all the spices and use 2 cups of sorrel/jamaica, 2 quarts of water and 3/4 of a cup of sugar. It will only need to steep for about half an hour.

3 cups of dried sorrel

a one inch piece of ginger, peeled

one or two pieces of orange peel

2 cinnamon sticks

8 whole cloves

1 1/2 cups of sugar

Put the ingredients in a large pitcher and pour in 6 cups of boiling water. Cover the pitcher and let the drink stand at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate for another 2 days. Strain through a fine sieve and put in a clean bottle and refrigerate. At this point you can add a quarter to a half a cup of rum and then let it steep again for 3 days or so. Serve over ice, diluted to taste with water or club soda, or rum to taste.

I've never rehydrated the whole flowers but would probably try it after the drink has been made so they don't overhydrate.

Good luck!

Abigail Blake

Sugar Apple: Posts from the Caribbean

http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone." Big Night

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Abigail:

Thanks for that. I'll try that another time. It's not the drink I'm trying to recreate, but a pure hibiscus simple syrup with the rehydrated flowers within. I'm attempting to recreate THESE myself, at a far more reasonable price. The idea of paying over $1 per flower makes my blood run cold. I make many of my other mixers myself, I can't imagine this would be any different. It just doesn't seem that complex.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Katie - I don't know if they have Trader Joe's in Philly, or if TJ's still carries these (since they are so weird about their inventory), but I've bought "dried sweetened hibiscus" there before. They're primarily whole flowers (a few of them were broken), lightly sweetened, texture sort of similar to fruit leather. I don't know why I never thought of using them as a substitute for those Wild Hibiscus flowers in syrup -- which I keep eyeing, and never buy because of the price.

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I've never worked with whole flowers. For making hibiscus simple syrup, I first steeped dehydrated broken flowers in warm water, strained and then added sugar to the "tea" to make syrup.

For what you're trying to accomplish, you may have two different applications on your hands: 1) re-hydrating the whole flowers and 2) making hibiscus simple syrup. Conflating the two probably isn't the best idea. I guess the left over water from step 1 might be of some use in step 2, but I don't think you're going to get much flavor out of the hibiscus without heat, and I don't think you want to heat the whole flowers.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Trader Joe's was my very first attempt. I Googled for "dried hibiscus flowers" and found several mentions of the TJ version. Alas, having called both local outposts, it seems they just don't carry them anymore. At least not around here, and they made it sound fairly final. :sad:

Thanks for the advice KD1191. I think you're right about not heating the whole flowers. I think I'll make the first pass in the manner you've suggested. I'll report back after I've had a chance to try it...

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Katie - I looked at what I have in the house to see if I had any but the flowers have been separated down into individual leaves. We usually get beautiful whole flowers in the local supermarket this time of year but nothing yet. Good luck with your hunt.

Abigail Blake

Sugar Apple: Posts from the Caribbean

http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone." Big Night

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Abigail:

Thanks for checking for me! Awfully kind of you. My understanding is that the flowers are in season around Christmas, but I suppose that's only in the warm zones where they're native, not up here in frozen Philadelphia. I was hoping maybe the Carribean market might have them if they were some sort of traditional holiday decoration, but I found only the dried ones, albeit better dried ones than I'd found previously. I guess this really is a bit more complex than I'd wagered - the complex part being finding the whole flowers in any form where I live or online.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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  • 4 years later...

Bump.

I'm trying to figure this out for a party in a few days. I'm leaning toward some form of a margarita base that includes a gingery, spicy hibiscus element. I also want it to be carbonated if possible.

If anyone has any thoughts on this idea or anything else, I'd sure appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Sorel by Jack From Brooklyn is a delicious spiced hibiscus liqueur with strong cinnamon and ginger notes. It pairs with everything. Its distribution may be limited to the NYC area, but DrinkUpNY can deliver it. It could sub for or complement the orange liqueur/ginger beer elements in your Margarita highball idea (which sounds a bit like a spicier Dove & Daisy).

You could also look to Toby Cecchini's Fitty Spot for inspiration; he pairs hibiscus tea with Jamaican spices, pineapple and tangerine juices, and rich rum.

Edited by Rafa (log)
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”In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” -Peter Valaer, "Foreign and Domestic Rum," 1937

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El Centro DF in DC makes a drink called the Red & Smokey. It's pretty excellent - Vida Mezcal, jalapeño-ginger syrup, lime juice, and generous amount of agua de jamaica, served on the rocks in a pint glass.

Edited by Hassouni (log)
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Jarritos makes a hibiscus soda that is really great but it seems to be the hardest flavor to find. MEMs, the tea importer makes a hibiscus blend that is awesome to make syrups from. They used to bill it as something Asian and used to call it Wu-Wei but I think it is more of a Caribbean thing.

So many years ago we used me a make a sloppy high ball called the Velouria that was hibiscus infused spirit plus aloe soda. The concept was cool but our execution was terrible and I always wanted to revisit it now that I'm so much better at making things.

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Now that I'm remembering, there was even a hot drink based on MEM's hibiscus tea that was boozed up with blended scotch, linie aquavit, and an alpine spruce tree honey was black like molasses and piny. The hot "Yaffe".

Edited by bostonapothecary (log)
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