In keeping with my love of using local ingredients, this recipe focuses on sorrel, which is available locally in the Caribbean. When I saw these crimson beauties in the market, I couldn’t resist picking some up! I had never seen them before, so I wasn’t sure what they were. I asked a store employee and she kindly taught me that they are flower buds typically steeped in boiling water along with other ingredients to add flavor. It’s traditionally served around Christmas and can have rum added if a little holiday cheer is in order. So, I filled my basket with all of the ingredients needed to make this delicious drink and headed home to experiment.
Unfortunately, my first attempt left a lot to be desired. I used too much water and not enough fresh sorrel. It was pale in color and lacking in flavor. The second time around I doubled up on the sorrel and it turned out much better. If you don’t have access to fresh sorrel, you can use dried sorrel teabags. If you can’t find sorrel teabags, then a similar result can be obtained with hibiscus teabags as they are in the same family. This method also saves time and effort as there is no preparation of the sorrel involved like there is when using fresh flower buds. If using fresh sorrel, you must remove the core from the center of each flower which contains the seeds.
The additional flavoring comes from cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, allspice, and ginger all steeped together. Of course this can be adjusted to suit your tastes. If you don’t care for one of those ingredients, simply leave it out and the drink will still taste amazing. Sorrel is quite tart, so add your choice of sweetener to balance the flavor. Finish with a squeeze of lime and a splash of rum if desired. The flavors are reminiscent of mulled wine, so adding a splash of red wine is also tasty. You certainly don’t have to limit enjoying this to just around the holidays. Try serving it slightly warmed during cool weather, and well chilled over ice during warmer weather.
Caribbean Sorrel Drink
- 2 lbs fresh sorrel flower buds, rinsed clean and cores removed or 2 cups dried loose sorrel or 10 sorrel or hibiscus tea bags
- 2 quarts water or more (adjust dilution to taste)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 allspice berries
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
- Sweetener of choice, to taste
- Spiced rum and/or red wine, to taste (optional)
- Lime wedges, for serving
Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Remove from heat and add sorrel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, orange zest, and ginger. Cover and let steep at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours, or until flavor is to your liking. I usually let it steep longer then it can always be diluted with more water, ice or alcohol later. Pour through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a glass container keeping liquid and discarding solids. Glass is preferable as the red hue may stain plastic. Add sweetener to taste. Enjoy warm or over ice. Serve with lime wedges and rum or wine added to taste if desired. Store unused portion in refrigerator.