In my family, dried hibiscus flowers have always been used for making tea. I like it, but I haven’t thought it is something special at all. Well, evidently not before I discovered the magic tastes of the Caribbean. The amazing thing is that, if you visit the ‘opposite side’ of our planet, and spend some time in Nigeria, you will discover a similar beverage there, a popular Zobo drink.
This fantastic herb drink is regularly served as a tangy Christmas punch in almost all islands in the Caribbean region, especially in Jamaica. With a rum cake on the table, this incredible beverage becomes a real basis for a solemn feast. If you are a fan of traditions and exotic flavors, sorrel can be a perfect choice for you. Let’s try to make the perfect one!
Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa)
Probably native to West Africa, Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L) has two distinct varieties, red and yellow.
Hibiscus sabdariffa (var. Altissima Wester) – This annual plant, high up to 16 feet (4.8 m) with yellow flowers, is cultivated in India and Nigeria. Sometimes, it is possible to find it in tropical America either.
Hibiscus sabdariffa (var. Sabdariffa) – This short, bushy form of this plant with red flowers originate from Northern Ghana.
Keep in mind that this plant is widespread all over the globe, but don’t confuse sorrel with the hibiscus flower. They are not the same.
The vernacular names of this herb in English-speaking regions are numerous:
- Jamaica sorrel
- Florida cranberry
- Red sorrel
- Queensland jelly plant
- Lemon bush
- Guinea sorrel
- Indian sorrel
- Jelly okra
In French-speaking regions, it is known as:
- Oseille de guinea
- Oseille rouge
In Spanish-speaking regions, you can find terms such as:
- Rosa de Jamaica
- Quimbombó chino
- Quetmia ácida
- Flor de Jamaica
- Agrio de guinea
In the Portuguese-speaking areas, this plant is recognized as:
- Azeda de guiné
- Quiabeiro azédo
- Cururú azédo
In Dutch (Surinam), it is well-known as:
In the Near East and North Africa, you can find names such as:
There are also various names for this plant in India:
- Assamese people call this plant Tengamora
- The Garos know the herb as Gal•da
- Chakmas call it Amile
- Among Karbis, it is known as Hanserong
- Meiteis call it Sillo Sougri
- The Bodos’ name for this plant is Mwita
In Nepal, it is known as:
The common name of this herb in Senegal is:
In Central America, especially in Mexico, the customized name of this herb is:
- Saril (flor de Jamaica)
In the Caribbean, it is merely – Sorrel!
Regardless of its names, which are often associated with the flower, keep in mind that you can’t use flowers of this herb, but the calyces.
Sorrel Drink Health Benefits
It is well-known that sorrel is rich in:
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Vitamin A (retinol)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, and iron
There are many well-known benefits of sorrel which have been confirmed thanks to numerous scientific researches:
- The red sorrel’s calyx relieves coughs
- The sorrel’s leaves solve problems with abscesses and boils
- Improves poor eyesight
- Prevents age-related ocular degeneration
- Boosts production of red blood cells and helps improve circulation
- Affects blood pressure and can be used as a home remedy for hypertension
- Decreases bad cholesterol levels and prevents clogged arteries
- Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, this plant protects the body from oxidative stress (imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals)
- In Latin America, this plant is often used as a diuretic and laxative
- Ingested daily, it is beneficial for kidneys
- It is a home remedy for certain cardiac and nerve disorders
- The results of some researches, carried out at Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University, show that certain types of sorrel, which grow on this island, boost the immune system and can be beneficial for patients suffering cancer.
What is Sorrel Drink?
Sorrel is definitely the most popular Christmas and New Year ruby red, cinnamon-spiced, floral beverage in Jamaica. In the US, this delicious Caribbean Christmastime sorrel became popular in the 30s, when Caribbean immigrants came and brought their traditional drink in the country.
If you have ever had an opportunity to try ‘Liquid soul’ (an African-American red drink), you will be surprised how similar these two beverages actually are.
When I tried this unusual liquid for the first time in my life, it tasted to me as some weird, refreshing lemonade because of its strong, acidic flavor. However, all these spices give this drink a unique, cheerful form, and that fantastic color makes it a perfect choice for special moments that Christmas and New Year definitely are.
Don’t forget to add some rum (or wine) in your Sorrel drink if you want to get a true festive Caribbean beverage!
Best Traditional Recipes for Caribbean Sorrel Drink
Thanks to colonial history and generally accepted British customs, there is a strong Christmas tradition of punch throughout the Caribbean. The people in this area adapted these old customs to their culture and preferences, and they invented their own punch varieties, characteristic for each individual island.
I will show you a few traditional ways of preparing sorrel drink in Jamaica, Montserrat, Barbados, St. Lucia, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica. They are pretty similar, but the secret is in the details.
Whichever option you try, be sure that you won’t go wrong. In fact, these are just ‘variations on the same topic’, and the difference is only in the spices you add in this drink. At the very least, you can always try a few recipes and choose the one that you and your family like best.
One more thing! Always keep in mind that it is possible using fresh calyces for making this drink, but dried sorrel petals give stronger beverage than fresh ones.
- 8 cups of water
- 5 pounds (0.7 kg) sorrel calyces
- 4 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Dried orange peel
- A piece of ginger
- Sugar to taste
To make this delicious drink by using this recipe is pretty simple. All you need are patience and goodwill.
Start by removing out the sorrel calyces, put them and other ingredients in a pot, and heat it until water boils. It is always better to double strain the liquid to remove any waste.
Cool the drink and add some sugar to taste. The tradition is to use brown cane sugar, but any sweetener is OK. Pour the cooled drink into a tall glass, add a lemon (or lime) slice and crushed ice, and your festive drink is ready to serve.
If you need this drink to stay in a fridge for a couple of days, you should double up the number of sorrel’s calyces. That way, you will make a concentrate prepared for use as needed. The only thing you should do is to add water and sugar in it, and the drink will be prepared in a few minutes.
You need approximately ten minutes to prepare real Caribbean’s sorrel drink and an additional ten minutes for cooking. However, the whole process of preparation should last a day to get a desirable taste.
- 10 cups of water
- 2 cups red sorrel buds (dried)
- 25 cup ginger (chopped)
- 8-10 allspice berries (cracked)
- 1 lime (chopped)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 orange (sliced)
- Rum to taste
- Simple syrup (with honey)
Bring to boil water and be sure that all sugar has dissolved. Add sorrel, ginger, lime, cinnamon stick, and allspice berries, and let it boils once again. Let the water cool, pour it to the bowl, and put in a fridge overnight. That way, you will get a potent flavor of your drink.
Before serving, strain beverage to remove any waste, add rum, simple syrup, orange slices, and ice. The best thing is that the total number of calories is only 122 kcal.
- 8 cups of cold water
- 2 cups sorrel (dried)
- 2 cloves
- 6 pimento berries
- 2 – 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp ginger (grated)
- 5 tsp allspice berries (pimento)
- 75 cups sugar
- Orange peel
- Wine to taste
Boil the water, sugar, sorrel, and ginger in a pot for about ten minutes. After removing the pot from the heat, stir the cloves, orange peel, and pimento berries in it.
Let it cool down, pour the drink in the glass bowl, and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Strain the mixture before serving, add wine (I like to add one cup of wine) and ice, and let your guests enjoy.
Although you are not from Jamaica, you can create a festive atmosphere in your home by bringing a bowl of this great drink on the table whenever you want.
Change the spices, taste intensity, and the level of sweetness, and you will get an entirely different drink every time you make it.
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari food blog. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.