With a thick, almost syrupy texture that coats your mouth and throat with an aromatically spiced flavor, sorrel is a steeped, blood-red juice that makes a much awaited appearance around Christmas time and is a great way to welcome the season.
What is Sorrel?
Originating in West Africa, a genus/type of hibiscus known as roselle is what is known throughout the Caribbean region as sorrel. The drink itself is made using the vibrant, blood red petals of the plant that usually blossoms and is cultivated around Christmas time, making it synonymous with the season. With growing popularity and thriving in warm climates, roselle is now common and popular not only in Africa and the Caribbean, but also throughout Asia and the Middle East.
To make the drink using fresh sorrel, you’ll first need to pick the fiery red teardrop-shaped blossoms and separate the red petals from the bright green seed pod in the middle. Be careful though as the pod tends to be covered in fine prickly hairs! The seed pod gets discarded and the red petals are kept since it’s what we’re after. Similarly, prepackaged dried sorrel petals can now be bought and used to make this drink, meaning that it can be enjoyed year round! Today I’ll be using the dried version (seen in the image below).
Is Sorrel Healthy? What Are the Benefits?
Dating back as far as the 16th century, sorrel has long been used and touted as being a medicinally beneficial plant that is used to treat ailments such as colds, fevers, toothaches, stomach upset, ulcers, reflux, high blood pressure and several other ailments some of which have been clinically tested. At a nutritional level though, sorrel is very high in flavonoids and Vitamin C which in itself is a great antioxidant for boosting your immune system as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
What Does Sorrel Juice Taste Like?
On its own, roselle/sorrel is sharp and tart with rich, fruity undertones. A good comparison would be fresh cranberries or even rhubarb. Fun fact, one of the many names for this tropical annual is the “Florida Cranberry”! When made into a juice, it is richly spiced and sweet while still having the wonderful tart almost earthy undertones of the plant.
So, What is Sorrel Juice Made Of?
- Sorrel Petals: Fresh or Dried, you’ll want to ensure you’re using the vibrant red petals of the plant alone (be sure you discard the green seed pod).
- Sugar: I’m using evaporated cane juice sugar but raw cane sugar can be used as well.
- Spices: Today I’m using my personal favorite combination of cinnamon sticks, cloves, fresh ginger root and bay leaves. Other spices you can opt to add in include fresh orange peel, all spice berries, cardamom pods, nutmeg (I recommend shaving off a few slices of one nutmeg since it is a strong spice and a little goes a long way) or even mace.
- Water: Not pictured, but water is of course required!
*Note: For exact measurements, refer to the recipe card at the end of this post*
Here’s How Easy This Festive Drink Is To Make:
To a large pot we’ll bring our water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, we’ll add in our sorrel petals and spices and stir everything together for 10 seconds to ensure everything is mixed and submerged. Then, we’ll turn off our heat and cover the pot, allowing it to steep for an hour, undisturbed.
When the hour is up, we’ll uncover our pot, and, while the liquid is still warm, we’ll add in our sugar so that it dissolves completely and easily. With the sugar fully dissolved, give it a taste test. Sorrel is a bit of a potent flavored drink so I highly recommend sweetening it to suit your own personal preference. Some people like it very sweet, while others prefer to enjoy the natural tartness of the drink.
Once you’re satisfied with the sweetness, cover your pot and allow it to steep for a further hour, or as long as overnight though if I’m being honest, I’ve made it both ways and don’t really notice much of a difference so if two hours is all you have, don’t worry, the difference will be minimal!
Once steeped, strain your drink through a fine mesh strainer or using a cheese cloth to remove the spice and sorrel flower. I like to squeeze the petals (allowing the liquid to go through the strainer) to get every drop of juice out so that none of it wastes and I get as much flavor as I can into the drink.
The deep, rich, blood-red juice you’re left with is your sorrel juice that is just begging to be chilled and served over ice, the perfect complement to the warming spices steeped into it.
Enjoyed by itself, or used in your favorite mocktail (I highly recommend trying it with some orange juice or even some fizzy ginger ale!), this seasonal drink is both seasonally iconic as it is unique in flavor and one you absolutely must try this holiday season.
Sorrel (Caribbean Juice Drink)
- In a large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Once boiling, add the dried sorrel and your spices of choice and stir for ten seconds. Cover your pot and turn off the heat. Let the sorrel steep for an hour undisturbed.
- After an hour, uncover your pot and add sugar. Sorrel is naturally very tart so taste and adjust the sweetness to suit your preference.
- Once sweetened, cover the pot and let your drink sit and steep for another hour or as long as overnight for a more potent drink.
- Using a fine mesh strainer or a cheese cloth, strain the juice into a jug or bottle and discard the sorrel and spices.
- Enjoy chilled or over ice. Store your drink in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Ensure you're using sorrel: the dried hibiscus flower which is deep red, and not sorrel the green herb version.
- Cinnamon and cloves are the most used spices in sorrel, but you can add any additional spices you enjoy such as orange peel or 4-5 allspice berries.
- Sorrel is a strong juice drink so if preferred you can dilute it with water or even orange juice or seltzer water or even ginger ale.