Dried hibiscus flowers have a tart cranberry-like flavor and are sometimes called “Roselle” or “Jamaica” flowers and used in sweetened drinks and herbal infusions. Karkade, made with hibiscus flowers is a popular drink here in Bahrain but is sometimes made tooth-achingly sweet and overly floral for my liking. By making your own infusions and syrups at home you have total control over the strength and sweetness.
Wanting to serve a light and refreshing non-alcoholic beverage for an afternoon with friends, Aqua De Jamaica found over at bon appétit is a somewhat similar version but with added flavors… the chill and vanilla grabbed my attention. It’s not a spicy drink but the chill gives it’s own subtle kick so don’t be afraid to add it in. I have adapted the recipe but if you want to use the bon appétit recipe and use hibiscus tea bags, 24 tea bags seems excessive. You might want to experiment. This refreshing drink looks stylish when served in pre-chilled flute glasses and perfect for entertaining.
Aqua De Jamaica
(makes 12 to 14 servings)
1/2 cup loose dried hibiscus flowers
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1 Thai Chilli, split in half lengthwise
3 strips of orange zest
juice of one orange
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
chilled sparkling water, S.Pellegrino, Perrier or soda water
How to make:
Rinse the hibiscus flowers under cold running water, place into a medium saucepan. Add the water and sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds out with a knife and add to the saucepan along with the vanilla pod, chilli and orange strips.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and while gently stirring, bring to a boil while dissolving the sugar. Remove from heat and leave the contents to infuse for about 1 hour.
Strain the cooled liquid through a sieve into a suitable jug, discard the solids. Stir in the orange and lime juice. Chill the infused liquid for at least 4 hours before diluting with ice-cold sparkling water and serving with an orange slice in each glass.
Note: As a guide I used 30ml of the infused hibiscus liquid and diluted with 120ml of chilled sparking water per serving. You can also use plain chilled water if liked. Adjust according to your taste.