Hibiscus Cocktail

This hibiscus cocktail, made from a traditional offering in Jamaica is full of fragrant, sweet hibiscus flowers and spices, sort of like mulled wine. The stunning red color is celebratory any time of year.

Several glass filled with purple Christmas hibiscus cocktail

In the Caribbean, where life is easier in some respects and the important things tend to take more prominence in life, Christmas isn’t Christmas without this gorgeous crimson-hued mulled wine of sorts made from steeped hibiscus flowers. It’s traditionally served on Christmas Eve, often with the added punch of rum, although you could omit the booze. It also makes the lovely basis for an effervescent Christmas morning mimosa. We’ll let you decide. Or even better, try it each way. We dare say you’ll have a difficult time discerning which you prefer. Either way, there’s enough loveliness to bring about even more Christmas cheer.–Renee Schettler Rossi

What Is Hibiscus And Why Am I Seeing Cocktails With It At Christmas?!

A little background on this stunning holiday sipper from the author of this recipe…

Hibiscus BlossomsPhoto: Beth Price

“The festive season in Jamaica is heralded by the appearance of a profusion of gorgeous sorrel blossoms at markets, vendors, and groceries across the island. Sorrel is our name for hibiscus or roselle, and is also the name of a drink made by blending the plant’s beautiful crimson flowers with generous amounts of white rum, wine, ginger, and sugar. A notoriously sweet, strong, almost thick beverage, it is the drink of choice for many during Christmastime, when most households are busy steeping the flowers to make this divine concoction. Sorrel can be made without alcohol if desired; simply eliminate the wine and rum. Feel free to adjust the alcohol and sugar quantities to suit your own tastes; that said, the best way to enjoy sorrel is in the traditional way as the flavors improve over time, much like a good bottle of wine. Sorrel can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed bottle or container for a long time.”

Hibiscus Cocktail

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 20 M
  • 6 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Ingredients

  • For the mulled hibiscus
  • For the hibiscus mimosas

Directions

Make the mulled hibiscus

In a large saucepan set over high heat, bring the water, ginger, cinnamon leaf or ground cinnamon, and allspice berries to a boil and let boil for a few minutes. Add the hibiscus buds, remove from the heat, and let cool. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for at least 6 hours and, preferably, 2 to 3 days. The longer the hibiscus mixture steeps, the richer the flavor. (You can also pour the mixture into bottles and refrigerate the mixture for longer, whether for yourself or to gift with the instructions that follow for how to make this into cocktails.)

Once the hibiscus has steeped, strain the mixture into a large bowl or lidded container and discard the solids. Sweeten the mixture with sugar to taste, starting with 1 pound, and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the wine and rum. Taste and, if desired, add more sugar and stir to dissolve. [EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve experienced this traditional Caribbean Christmas cocktail in Jamaica, you know they serve it sweet. Quite sweet. We toned down the sugar a touch but feel free to add more as desired. It is also often served without the wine and rum, so that’s also an option.]

Serve

To serve as mulled hibiscus, do as they do in the Caribbean and rewarm the mixture over low heat. Then ladle the gorgeous crimson liquid into small cups and serve warm.

To serve as hibiscus mimosas, pour 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) chilled mulled hibiscus into each of four Champagne flutes and top with a generous splash of chilled sparkling wine, aiming for a 1:2 ratio of mulled hibiscus to sparkling wine, depending on the size of your flutes. Taste and, if desired, add more bubbly and perhaps a piece of star anise.

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    *Where Can I Find Hibiscus?

    • While fresh hibiscus, or sorrel, blossoms aren’t readily available stateside, you can easily find dried hibiscus online, including Amazon, or, as one of our recipe testers reminded us, in the bulk section of a well-stocked grocer. It’s a touch pricey but you’ll only need about 4 ounces and it’s worth every cent. Frontier brand is one quality option. You can also find it less expensively at most any ethnic market, whether Caribbean, Mexican, Indian, or Middle Eastern (as “sadaf”).

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    It's Christmas time in Cayman and the produce section at the local grocery is brimming with fresh hibiscus blossoms ready to be turned into a festive holiday drink. In the past, I’ve used dried hibiscus to make a refreshing sun tea, but this was my first experience using the beautiful fresh blossoms.

    I used one pound of whole buds and steeped the mixture for 2 days. The longer you steep, the deeper the color and depth of flavor. After straining and adding the sugar, rum, and wine, I had 8 cups of a ruby red hibiscus mixture. This is quite lovely on it’s own or, as the author suggests, adding prosecco for a Christmas mimosa.

    This recipe is very easy and really hard to screw up. I used Pinot Noir and white rum. It would also be nice with club soda as a spritzer. You can omit the alcohol for a non-alcoholic version and still feel very festive.

    This infusion just rose to the top of the list as my most useful holiday beverage. The mulled hibiscus can be made a day ahead (I left mine to steep and infuse overnight for 18 hours, although longer might be even mo’bettah).

    Even if you can only source dried hibiscus, you will still have outstanding results. Make sure your ginger is fresh (the skin will be golden and the flesh yellow, not grey, yielding juices even as you peel it). Pounding the ginger is easiest using a wood mallet or rolling pin, and to capture all the juices, I will do it in a heavy resealable plastic bag, rinsing out the bag with some of the water to capture every bit of the ginger juices.

    The red wine I used was a Bordeaux-style blend from California. The rum was a white Flor de Caña.

    Not only does this make a beautiful holiday mimosa, but the mulled hibiscus itself is an exquisite alternative to your favorite gløgg, warmed with a bit of star anise and served in small cups. As a mimosa, I started with a 1:2 ratio, although you can adjust it to your own taste, maybe topping with a little more Prosecco. A flute of this mimosa makes a gorgeous welcome drink.

    A lovely holiday hostess gift kit would be a bottle of the mulled hibiscus and a bottle of Prosecco and a jar of hibiscus flowers in syrup, but we will definitely be keeping plenty for ourselves. The flower is a delicate treat at the end of the drink!

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    Comments

    1. I have had my eye on this recipe for quite some time, and saved it for Holiday gift giving time! A wonderfully fragrant and flavorful mulled wine of sorts, this Christmas Hibiscus Cocktail was easy to make and a perfect gift. I allowed my hibiscus/ginger/cinnamon mixture to sit in the fridge for 1 week and decided to only start with 1/2 lb. of brown sugar in terms of sweetness. It was a nice ratio of sweet to tangy to rich, thanks to the Zinfandel and dark spiced rum that I used. In Step 2 when I did sweeten it up, I actually lightly heated the hibiscus mixture with the sugar so that it would dissolve easier. I think doing that is helpful, or maybe even adding a brown sugar simple syrup? I didn’t just want to stir in sugar in case it didn’t dissolve fully. I put the Hibiscus Cocktail in lovely jars and labeled them for my friends. I was smart and kept a jar for myself as well! I tried it both as a mulled, warm wine on its own, and added a touch into some Prosecco. I highly recommend trying this festive cocktail this Holiday season. Who knows? It might even become an annual tradition.

      1. Thanks, Anna! That’s a wonderful gift to share with friends. Thanks for the terrific tip about heating the mixture when adding the sugar.

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