As a Jamaican, I can tell you that anyone can make a sorrel drink but not everyone makes a great one. This post will help yours to be the best anyone has ever tasted and we are making it Jamaican style. Sorrel drink, sorrel juice, Jamaican sorrel, hibiscus drink, Agua de Jamaica and Roselle are all names for this very special Christmas and Thanksgiving drink that is popular in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Here is a round-scrumptious Jamaican recipes to flavour and spice up your Thanksgiving holiday table. Read on about my sorrel drink.
If there is one beverage present in every Jamaican home over Christmas and New Year’s it is “Sorrel.” In fact, it is pointed to say that it isn’t Christmas until sorrel drinks start brewing and poring aplenty in every Jamaican home. This is a defining part of our experience of the Christmas season.
Sorrel is to a Jamaican Christmas what snow is to a temperate Christmas. This “Jamaican sorrel is not to be confused with the herb called sorrel. In Jamaica, and to Jamaicans all over the world, sorrel is one thing and one thing only- hibiscus. It is the same flower that is called “Agua de Jamaica in Latin America and other parts of the Americas. The drink is so popular to Jamaicans that is it known by that name.
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Sorrel Drink FAQ
What is it made of?
The drink is a favourite at this time of year because it is made from hibiscus (otherwise called roselle or karkade), which starts to come into season in the Caribbean by about November.
What is sorrel juice good for?
Fresh sorrel is grown in the gardens of many Jamaicans and is traditionally handpicked in huge batches by a group of women and children ahead of the holidays. The petals are set aside for this deliciously rich drink and excess petals are sometimes dried for later use.
Since we do not have access to fresh hibiscus in the UAE or in Aruba, we use the dried karkade found in abundance in supermarkets like Carrefour and Choithrams. It is very high in resveratrol, vitamin C and the rich luxurious colour just accentuates the season.
Is Hibiscus the same as sorrel?
Yes it is the same ingredient but it is made differently from other popular hibiscus drinks like hibiscus tea in the Middle East and North Africa or Karkade in India. Those are tinctures that are just steeped in water and had as hot beverages. In Africa, and specifically in Nigeria an iced version is called Zobo drink or Sobolo and usually citrus like lemons or oranges are infused. In Ghana, there is a spiced version that has cloves, black pepper and red chili peppers.
I believe that the Ghanaian version is really the root of the Jamaican Sorrel Drink. Cloves are included in the Jamaican sorrel juice and allspice (which is known to have the flavours of black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg) but in a milder mix than adding them collectively.
How long does sorrel drink last?
Traditionally, sorrel can be made with fresh sorrel and made very sweet and left to ferment for a year in glass bottles. In fact, I used to see my Jamaican mother and grandmother storing theirs in one gallon bottles that came with Red Label wine. I like to do a slow ferment of a very concentrated and sweet batch one year in advance and from that I can pour of a batch that I have made as early as August or whenever I can afterwards to intensify it. If I could sever all my sorrel fermented for 12 months, I would but because I do it in the refrigerator, space is limited.
Does the drink have to be refrigerated?
The answer is no. Traditionally, you could make sorrel wine by simply storing in sterilised glass bottles in a cool dark place (likely a cellar underneath traditional Jamaican country homes). You could also store in these jars outside as well as inside the fridge. Just remember to make the drink really sweet if you are going to ferment for long periods and remember to release the caps to release the gas at regular intervals. This will produce a more alcoholic beverage and such an intense, complex development of flavours in your Jamaican sorrel drink.
Is Agua de Jamaica the same as Jamaican sorrel?
Agua de Jamaica is much a Latino Agua Fresca made of steeped hibiscus flowers and served over ice and sweetened to taste. This is more like the Zobo or Sobolo drink popular in Nigeria, Africa.
Sorrel Drink vs Sangaree or Mulled Wine
The drink itself is like a sangaree or a mulled wine per se- drinks made with wine and infused with steeped spices. However sorrel is always served cold. I am not sure if historically that was the case. Perhaps it was served at room temperature before the days of widespread refrigeration.
Since we have come a long time hence, I usually like to make mine to be pretty concentrated, very alcoholic very sweet so that I can serve with lots of ice. That way my drink goes longer. I like to make mine from months before when possible and the extra sugar causes a bit of fermentation, adding yet another layer of flavour. Usually I serve mine in tumblers because it’s just too special to pour like lemonade.
Jamaican and Caribbean Holiday Recipes
What Jamaican or Caribbean recipes are you looking for this holiday? Let me know and I will help you to transform your celebration Jamaican style! You can check out my popular Jamaican Christmas ideas here.
PONCHE DE CREME
As sorrel is the beat of a Jamaican holiday, Ponche de Creme is the calypso of a Trinidadian holiday. So here is my amazing Ponche de Creme Recipe
- 6 cups sorrel, hibiscus, karkade, roselle
- 24 cups/5.5L/8oz water
- 1 kg /2.2lbs+2cups brown cane sugar
- 1 L red wine, preferably port
- 1/2 cup Appleton Jamaican Rum, optional
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 2 teaspoons whole allspice
- 2 inches peeled fresh Jamaican Indian ginger sliced in 3- pieces
- Bring the water to a low boil in a large stockpot
- Add hibiscus, cloves, allspice and ginger and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- Remove from heat and let it sit until cool, preferably overnight.
- Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, discarding the trash.
- Add the sugar, wine (and rum if using) and stir repeatedly until all the sugar crystals at the bottom of the liquid dissolve.
- Pour into glass bottles with airtight caps and leave on counter for 2-3 days to ferment slightly.
- Transfer bottles to fridge and keep for up to a year. The drink gets better with age. Some of the sugars will be converted to alcohol as the drink matures with age, which is why I have made it very sweet. If too sweet upon serving, simply dilute with a little water.
- You can also serve it immediately, though it’s best when made at least a week in advance. Serve over lots of ice, as it is sweet especially if freshly made.
For more Jamaican Christmas recipes, check out this amazing collection of recipesthis amazing collection of recipes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 225Total Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCarbohydrates: 57g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.