Hibiscus Drink

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

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.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

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


  1. Steep hibiscus calyces, ginger, and sugar in hot water for several hours.
  2. Once cooled, place in the fridge and continue to steep for as little or as long as you prefer (up to 2 days).
  3. Strain out the plant parts and serve with ice.

Makes approx. 4 cups.

More Summertime Drinks

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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23 thoughts on “Hibiscus Drink

  1. SORREL! I fell in love with this stuff in Barbados, but haven’t had any since I left there. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  2. Entangled: Good to know.

    I figure we can grow the plant this far north if we start the seeds indoor early, but it’s quite large and would be difficult to bring back indoors like some of the other hibiscus plants I have grown.

  3. Oh my god, that sounds DELICIOUS. Unfortunately the closest I’ve seen to hibiscus flowers around here is Tazo’s Passion tea, great for making iced tea, but the recipe you’ve just detailed sounds much better.

  4. Mmmmm, I just started using my own Hibiscus flowers here in white tea. Of course, if you do have a Hibiscus shrub, and know the varietal, you should make sure that you have an edible type before trying it out. I found a pretty good site to reference whether or not your type is edible: http://www.hibiscus.org/toeat.php. Luckily the plant I have is “Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Chinese hibiscus”. And it’s tasty!

  5. Never heard of sorrel/roselle but Agua de Jamaica is my all-time favorite summer drink. I have made it before but this summer I will try yours too, since I love ginger. Thanks!

  6. I love Hibiscus tea! It feels so good to drink that beautiful color. I’ve been making lemonade with mint and honey so far, but thanks for the reminder of hibiscus!

  7. They sell dried hibiscus at our local coop and along with dried orange zest and some mystery dried berry, I concoct delicious teas for my young friends at work who love it when I anounce that I’m brewing.

    My husband, who has visited Oaxaca on several occasions says that hibiscus tea is sipped regularly for health reasons, something about kidney/prostate health.

    kdilley perfectly articulated why I love it – “it feels so good to drink that beautiful color.”

  8. A Jamaican-Trinidadian couple I know always have this as a drink option at their house. It is delicious!

  9. In the north of India, the summers can get unbearable and dehydrating. This is one of the drinks that is given to visitors and children to keep the body cool.

    Other drinks are also made from sour-green mangoes, buttermilk and lassi (a sweet drink made from curds thinned out with milk/water).

    But I’ve never had this drink – so I’m going to give your recipe a try. Thanks Gayla!

  10. I am so glad to find this recipe. I have grown this plant here in Indiana from seed. In the winter we keep it in the greenhouse. I have bought pre-packed tea bags made with this Hibiscus but now will be able to make my own.

  11. You’re making me think of my mom with this post and walking down in the morning and seeing the flowers soaking in water overnight. Although, I don’t like this drink when it is sweetened. I actually like the bitter natural taste.

    Another easy one to make is Agua de Tamarindo.

  12. I just started growing sorrel in my kitchen garden here in Barbados– in hopes that by December I will have some lovely pods. I cannot wait! The seeds were passed on to me from a friend from last christmas’ harvest.

  13. There’s a little soda fountain in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, that makes a berry milkshake with hibiscus syrup…it’s ridiculously tasty.
    It’s called the “P.R. Nelson – huckleberry ice cream blended with our house made purple haze hibiscus syrup”

  14. Meghan H: That sounds really good.

    Homegrown: That’s great! I very much wish I could grow my own.

    MrBrownThumb: I added sweetener for the masses. We don’t sweeten it for ourselves either. I LOVE Agua de Tamarindo. And as a frozen popsicle!

    Yogita: I find hibiscus particularly refreshing. Oh lassi is a good one too.

    Marietta: The kidney health thing makes sense to me since it is often considered a cranberry substitute… maybe not just the colour and tartness?

    kdilly: Beautiful way of putting it. Drinking that colour.

  15. I grew up on that stuff, and had it with out fruit cake during the christmas season. Is there someone willing to share some seeds with me?
    I like mine with lots of ginger and some clove. Brandy or Jamaican Rum adds a nice touch.

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