The perfect holiday drink

This is a traditional holiday-season drink on the island, but it is also enjoyed year-round. Known in other parts of the world as hibiscus tea, it makes a refreshing accompaniment whenever jerk-seasoned meats or poultry or even spicy roast fish and cornbread are on the menu.

You’ll find sorrel at Caribbean food stores, but don’t go looking for the leafy green herb, much loved by English gardeners, that is delicious in springtime soups and salads; what you’ll actually be buying is dried hibiscus flowers. They are deep red in colour and tart in flavour, which might be why they share the same name as their unrelated namesake; a remnant, perhaps, of the countless culinary and cultural links to Jamaica’s colonial past.

1 pound dried sorrel (dried hibiscus flowers)
1 cup granulated raw cane sugar, plus more if needed
2 tbsp freshly grated gingerroot
10 whole dried allspice berries
8 cups boiling water
rum and/or ginger ale (optional)
lime wedges

In a large stainless steel pot or bowl, combine the sorrel, sugar, ginger and allspice berries. Stir in the water. Allow the mixture to stand at least 4 to 6 hours, or up to 12 hours for a very strongly flavoured drink. Strain the liquid into a large jug or small punch bowl, ideally one made of glass to show off the brilliant colour of the sorrel. Discard the solids.

Taste and adjust for sweetness, if desired. Add rum (if using), to taste. Add ginger ale for a little sparkle, if desired. Serve on ice, garnished with a wedge of lime.

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