Photo by Eve Hill-Agnus.

Drink This Now: Hibiscus Sips to Beat the Heat

The blossom makes for drinks that are tart and refreshing.

I find hibiscus incredibly easy to crave. The particular combination of berry fruitiness and puckering tartness makes the bold magenta blossoms irresistible. Dried and rehydrated, they’re chewy and complex enough in flavor to have been the centerpiece of hibiscus enchiladas that have haunted me since I encountered them at Ricardo Munoz Zurita’s restaurant Azul Condesa in Mexico City. (The recipe for the unusual dish, in which hibiscus’ tartness meets the warmth and richness of chipotle and tomato, has since been published in Bon Appetit. They remain one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten.) But the dried flower is more commonly used to make cold infused beverages served in climes where the weather is sultry. In Mexico, it’s jamaica, as common an agua fresca as tamarind or pineapple; in the Caribbean—in Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago—you’ll find tall pitchers of the fuscia-hued drink they call sorrel, mixed with warm spices (cinnamon, cloves) and dried orange peel, like a refreshing version of mulled wine.

On a hot day, I crave hibiscus’ tartness and depth like nothing else. And its fruitiness makes for a lovely blend as an iced tea with berries. Here are some I’ve loved recently:

  •  At Serj, downtown, the strawberry-hibiscus iced tea is bracingly tart as strawberry-rhubarb pie. They’ll sweeten it with agave at your request, but I prefer mine pure and deliciously mouth-puckering.
  •  At the new Cultivar Coffee in Oak Cliff, berry notes are deeper and jammier in a blueberry-hibiscus iced tea that tastes like a perfect summer day in Maine with its lingering blueberry flavor.
  • And while the above versions are simple and unsweetened, just infusions of flower and fruit, Caribbean Cabana in the newly remodeled Dallas Farmers Market Shed 2 may be one of the only places you can easily find sorrel, both the house recipe—intensely sweet, lemony, tart, with notes of cinnamon, like a spice-islands strawberry lemonade—and a bottled version of the commercial drink that’s as ubiquitous in the Caribbean as Jarritos are in Mexico and Orangina is in France. Even sweeter, it’s bubblegum meets clove, strangely addictive and, for most of us, completely novel.

 

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Bottled sorrel from Caribbean Cabana. (Photo by Catherine Leffert)

 

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Blueberry-hibiscus tea from Cultivar. (Photo by Eve Hill-Agnus)

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