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