This Trinidadian sorrel drink is bright red and tastes just like Christmas. I learned how to make it from the master, Ryan’s dad, before making it for my own family over the Christmas holidays.
It took me a while to find out that the drink sorrel is different than the vegetable sorrel. The vegetable sorrel is a leafy green that has a sour, tangy taste and my mom used to pluck it wild in the fields in Germany. Conversely, the drink is made from roselles, the sepals and calyces of a species of hibiscus from West Africa (Hibiscus sabdariffa). Due to the slave trade in the 1600s, sorrel is now found throughout the world, including all over the Caribbean, south Asia, southeast Asia, west Africa, the Middle East, and even now in Europe. Ryan’s dad said he found giant sacks of the dried roselles for sale in Saudi Arabia where it was called karkadé (and consumed hot and only lightly sweetened). I found our stash of the dried roselles at the Caribbean grocers (and fish stalls) in Kensington Market here in Toronto.
This drink is now found world over, although this version is flavoured Trini-style with cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves. I hear that in Jamaica it’s flavoured with ginger, and in other Caribbean islands other combinations of spices and flavourings are used. Regardless of how it’s made, this beverage and it’s beautiful ruby-red colour will surely be a hit at your next holiday party.
To make this more of an adult beverage, try adding a shot of rum to a glass of sorrel (we especially liked Kraken spiced rum). If serving this drink at Christmas time, also make a batch of punch a creme for a truly Trini event.
- 1.5 litre water
- 1 pack sorrel (dried 126 g)
- 1.5 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 2 bay leaf
- Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large pot, then remove from heat and let steep until cool.
- Strain out the spices and sorrel.
- This makes about 1.25 L of sorrel concentrate. To serve, dilute the concentrate with cold water 3:1, and then sweeten to taste. Some people, like Ryan's dad, like it pretty sweet, like juice.
The roselles will give enough flavour and colour to be reused for a second batch of sorrel, so just strain the roselles and keep them tightly covered in the fridge for a few days, before brewing them with new spices.