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Hibiscus Refresher


As the name of this beverage implies, it is made from the deep crimson or magenta calyces (sepals) of  the roselle flower: Hibiscus sabdariffa. It is drunk either hot as a tea or cold as a beverage pretty much worldwide, though the name varies from region to region. In Mexico and Latin America it is known as Flor de Jamaica, Rosa de Jamaica or just plain Agua de Jamaica. On the other hand, in Jamaica, where it likely originated as a beverage, it is known as Sorrel. In Australia, Roselle. It is equally popular in much of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. To a lesser degree it is drunk in Europe and the US, though in California it is sold as an Agua Frescas in Mexican restaurants. I first had it in Mexico and later, Guatemala and it has been one of my favorite go-to summer beverages ever since.



You can find the dried sepals in health food stores, Asian and Latin American stores and often even mainstream markets in the ethnic foods section.

Hibiscus does have some medicinal properties and is used in traditional medicines worldwide. Depending upon the country or region, ginger, mint, lemon juice, citrus peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices are added. I like mine with a little vanilla — either a bean added with the flower petals in the preparation or extract added at the end. I sometimes add citrus peel when making it, and I often make it into a punch similar to sangria but with rum or white wine. And this is the best part about hibiscus refreshers — it welcomes all kinds of additions to the basic tart, cranberry-like base. Best of all, it’s an inexpensive beverage to prepare and nearly everyone will enjoy it!

You will need to add sweetening of some sort unless you really like mouth-puckering tart flavors. The type and amount of flavoring is up to you. You use sugar, agave, honey, or coconut sugar, it will accommodate all equally well. In the recipe I have used a blend of vanilla sugar and added some extract. Vanilla does seem to add a refreshing component to the flavor of this beverage.

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Patricia Rain
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.

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