A Christmas Tradition: Sorrel Drink

“Every December, I host a tree-trimming party. I serve chili with cornbread and lots of good wine. It’s a wonderful party, and it shows how much adults like to play.” Maya Angelou

Sorrel is the favourite festive Christmas drink of Jamaica! Like fine winemaking, sorrel-making is an established activity, the roots of which go back generations. Making sorrel especially during the Christmas season, is a tradition practiced worldwide.

The process for making sorrel, a signature Jamaican drink with a rich, wine – like essence, is pretty straight forward. The drink is actually made from the sorrel plant, which is now harvested all year round in Jamaica. After the plant’s petals fall off, what’s left is the sepals (fruit). As the fruit matures, they become enlarged, fleshy, and bright red.

A beverage, deep red in colour with a unique taste enhanced by spices, is made from the fruit petals of the sorrel plant.  First, you steep the petals with grated ginger in boiled hot water. Once the liquid cools, it gets refrigerated for 24 hours before it is strained through a muslin cloth, or a sieve. This is a traditional method. Add white rum and sugar to sweeten.

The more contemporary method of making sorrel includes mixing port wine (or sherry) together with spices such as pimento, cloves, and even orange peel.

“It’s that good!”

Based on a variety of factors that we’ll expand on as you read further, you’ll be able to determine when your sorrel is ready to be bottled for gifting. The exchange of bottled sorrel as a gift is also traditional. In my opinion, the concept of pouring this sweet, spiced, home made beverage from a bottle, is like pouring fine red wine. It’s that good!

The Art of Sorrel-making

“Cooking is not an exact science.” These are the words my Mommy Lorna said to me before she explained her method for making sorrel. Many texts have been written outlining the process, but here’s a digestible place to start. It’s true that with making this drink, the ingredients must be adjusted to achieve your desired taste. For each house I’ll visit this holiday season with sorrel made and bottled to go, each drink will have a uniqueness about them based on what ingredients were used. To be fair to the younger children, you can also make this beverage alcohol free.

Five Simple Ingredients

Mommy Lorna uses five simple ingredients to make sorrel: fresh sorrel petals; grated ginger; lime juice and brown sugar. Her choice of alcohol is a specific port wine with a sweet ginger aroma. The method she uses to “draw” out the flavor of the sorrel petals is traditional – using boiling hot water to draw out the flavor of the sorrel petals. “Drawing” is a word my mom used to explain the process – it simply means to extract flavour. The petals are mixed into the hot water with grated ginger. Her next step is to allow the mixture to cool, before its refrigerated for 24 hours.

The more sorrel petals you use, the stronger the flavor of the drink. If you’re not able to buy fresh sorrel (it goes fast this time of year), the dried packaged sorrel will yield just as strong a flavour. On occasion, one or two pimento seeds are bottled with the final drink.

Sorrel (Hibiscus)

References to Jamaican sorrel go back to the 1700’s.  It is believed that the sorrel plant may have come to Jamaica from Africa. Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of hibiscus native to West Africa. In the Caribbean, sorrel drink is made from sepals of the roselle. In Mexico, ‘agua de Flor de Jamaica’ (water flavored with roselle) frequently called “agua de Jamaica” is most often homemade and served chilled.  Hibiscus tea is a herbal tea made as an infusion from crimson or sepal of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. It is consumed both hot and cold.

The method I use to make sorrel is contemporary. I like the flavour of the lime juice. I like to bring to a boil the sorrel and ginger as opposed to pouring the already boiled water on these ingredients. I love the sheer smell of the sorrel petals and the ginger as they come to a boil. Rum or wine? It’s all the same to me. Cheers. Peace. Love. Enjoy the recipe.

Sorrel Drink

  • Servings: 10 - 12 cups
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print

Sorrel is the favourite festive Christmas drink of Jamaica! Like fine winemaking, sorrel-making is an established activity, the roots of which go back generations. Making sorrel especially during the Christmas season, is a tradition practiced worldwide.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups sorrel petals (fresh or dry)
  • ¼ cup grated ginger
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 5 pimento seeds
  • 12 cups water
  • Brown sugar to sweeten
  • A splash of rum (or as desired to taste)

Directions

If using fresh sorrel you must first thoroughly wash it. Place the sorrel, ginger, pimento and water in a large pot and bring to a boil on medium heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let cool. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove the steeped liquid from the refrigerator. Strain through a muslin cloth or a sieve into another large container. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Stir in the lime juice. Sweeten to taste with the sugar. Slowly stir in the rum or wine, tasting as you go to achieve your desired flavour. Serve chilled, or over ice.

Tips:

Substitute rum with port wine. Sherry can be used as well.

Makes approximately 10 – 12 cups.

It’s a great idea to make this drink a day or two in advance of serving it. Giving it time to sit allows the true flavours to really blend.

You can now print this recipe card. Hit ‘PRINT’ on the above to keep it handy.

 

30 thoughts on “A Christmas Tradition: Sorrel Drink

    • Hello, Panos and Mirella! 💚 Nice to always hear from you two. Wow, happy 2017!
      I don’t know if you will get the same effect with the dried hibiscus flower. The taste of sorrel is so distinct. The only other knowledge I have to go on is that I’ve tried hibiscus tea and it’s very different. But then again the concentration is different too. I am curious, so will try this out and let you know the results.
      Xoxo
      Side note, Panos, my phone spell check renamed you as ‘Pants’ like five times. 😀 Thanks for stopping by you two!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This sounds absolutely delicious- I can’t say I’ve ever tried sorrel, but I believe any new food/drink deserves at least one chance! It’s so nice to meet a fellow Torontonian on the blogosphere. Thank you for following my blog and keep in touch! I’m excited to see what 2017 brings for you and your blog. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice to meet you B! 🙂 I too get excited when I meet a fellow blogger who’s so close to home. Being in Toronto you definitely have the opportunity to try this drink. It’s sold bottled in even Metro grocery stores.
      Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Eartha! Thanks so much for following Nomenom!! Your site is absolutely beautiful, and I love how you have used your knowledge to create a niche in food blogging! I have tried to do the same by sharing my culture and knowledge of Cajun cooking. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you! Gina

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Gina! Thank you so much for stopping by, and for commenting. I think it’s important to stay true to you and what you know. Cajun food is so good!
      Merry Christmas! Wish you all the best in the coming year. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and reading the post. I’m assuming by fruit cake you mean black/rum cake? I was trying not to go there but that combo is the best there is!!! Happy Holidays! 🙂

      Like

  3. I first had a taste of this flower in Belize, they really did just call it ‘Jamaica’ and it was delicious, requested it every morning after that. Now I’ll have to see if I can find the petals around here, thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello, Bernadine! aka Baking Queen. 🙂 First, congrats on two fronts – 200 followers as a new blogger – and for your Mystery Blogger Award nomination. 👏 This is an award given to bloggers that captivate, inspire and motivate. Your passion for baking is apparent and anyone can see you have fun with it.
      Thank you for nominating me. I enjoyed reading your response. To answer question #5, I prefer from scratch over boxed mixes any day! #1 As a bit of a data nerd, I really enjoyed learning Excel. I plan almost everything on spreadsheets. 🤓
      To choose two blogs that inspire would prove difficult. I follow food bloggers, poets, writers, photographers, fashionistas, wanderlusts. They all expand my horizon and contribute experiences that are unique.
      Thanks for spreading the love.❤ Keep blogging.
      Sharing your link. https://bernbakes.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/mystery-blogger-award-nomination/

      Like

    • Hi, Lady G! I’m able to find the packaged, dried sorrel all year round in most Caribbean grocery stores. The fresh sorrel shows up beginning of December. Here’s the thing though, non-alcoholic bottled sorrel is sold in most grocery stores year round. This is a great way to get introduced to the drink. You could even add alcohol to it. Packaged sorrel is also sold online if you’re not able to find any. Let me know how it works out. I hope you’ll get to try it. Thanks for checking out the post. Have a wonderful Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Eartha!
        Thanks for the thoughtful response. I live near Atlanta and there is a huge International Farmers Market there so I am thinking that I can find sorrel there.
        That said, I like the idea of looking for the bottled kind at my local grocer 🙂
        I will be adding a nice little kicker to it 😉
        Thanks again and Merry Christmas to you love!

        Liked by 1 person

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