This hot cocktail is my new, Caribbean drink for cold winter nights. I like the idea of drinking something tropical in winter like this Jamaican rum hot toddy. And since this is a hot sorrel drink recipe, it’s also a great antidote for the cold.
What is Sorrel?
When you hear the word sorrel, you might think of a soft, leafy green. That is not the sorrel we’re talking about here. The sorrel drink is a sexy Jamaican specialty. It is a punch made from an infusion of hibiscus blossoms (traditionally made with the sepals, not the petals of the flower) or hibiscus tea. It is a punch bowl drink served over ice, (rum optional), in a brilliant, crimson red color and a sweet-tart flavor.
Now, sorrel is a drink typically served during the holiday season. In fact, most Jamaicans I know – no matter how far from their tropical homeland they stray – say it isn’t Christmas without a Jamaican sorrel drink. And once you try making this slightly spicy, crimson drink, I think you might say it is a necessary part of your holiday celebrations moving forward. But why stop at Christmas? I say hold on to this sorrel cocktail recipe to set the tone for a romantic Valentine’s Day, too.
How to make sorrel syrup
To make my version of a Caribbean sorrel drink, you will need a sorrel syrup, like the one in my recipe below, which is basically a simple syrup flavored with hibiscus and warming spices. For the sake of timing, please don’t forget that the sorrel syrup must be cooled completely before you use it in this or any sorrel cocktail. (You can keep the sorrel, refrigerated, for seven to ten days.)
The main ingredient in sorrel syrup is hibiscus. (Did you know that hibiscus has many health properties, including some linked with sexual health?) I’ve seen Caribbean recipes that call for using fresh hibiscus but for this drink you will use dried. You can use either dried pieces of hibiscus flower, sometimes referred to as dried sorrel, but I prefer the ease of using hibiscus tea.
The key to the sorrel syrup is time. The sorrel on its own is tart and acidic. First, you want to get a good strong brew. Then you need to add sugar and give the tea time to absorb the spices. The process of making this syrup cannot be rushed.
My recipe for a hot sorrel cocktail
As you can see from the recipe below, my sorrel is a departure from the original, Jamaican sorrel drink. Instead of an icy, refreshing punch bowl drink, my sorrel cocktail is served hot. In fact, I’d call it a variation on a hot toddy made with rum and my version of hot sorrel tea.
The other major difference between my sorrel recipe and what is known as sorrel in Jamaica is that I’m recommending this drink not just during the Holiday season but as a Valentine’s Day cocktail – or at least a drink for a romantic occasion – if Valentine’s Day isn’t your thing.
Before you can make this spiked hibiscus drink, you have to have a great-tasting batch of sweet and spicy sorrel syrup. Although the cocktail only calls for four ingredients, the sorrel syrup itself is layered with spices.
To make sorrel syrup, you need:
- Hibiscus flower tea bags – You want an intense hibiscus flavor, so you’ll need to use four tea bags to one cup of water, or 12 dried hibiscus flower pieces.
- Granulated sugar
- Fresh ginger root – Be sure to smash the ginger slices to release their juices.
- Cinnamon sticks
- Allspice berries
- Whole cloves
Once the syrup is made, it must be cooled before you can use it. This is a great recipe to make in advance and have on hand.
For the cocktail:
- Sorrel syrup
- Hibiscus tea – You’re going to add the sorrel syrup to hot hibiscus tea, so make sure you stock up on hibiscus tea bags.
- Cinnamon stick for stirring – I’d call this optional but it really adds to the drink’s fun
With the sorrel made ahead, all you really have to do is brew some herbal tea and add the rum to make this exotic, spicy-sweet cocktail.
Choosing your spirit for this sorrel rum toddy
I make my sorrel hot toddy recipe with Dos Maderas Anejo Rum. It is not Jamaican but it comes from the Caribbean and embodies the spirit of this tropical, winter drink. It is oak-aged and fairly complex, with pleasing sweetness to balance the hibiscus tea. I recommend trying the drink this way but you can always use your preferred rum.
Why sorrel recipes are great for romantic occasions
Although my recipe is a departure from Jamaican sorrel, my sorrel syrup uses the same two main ingredients as a Caribbean sorrel punch. And both of these ingredients happen to be aphrodisiacs.
As I mentioned earlier, hibiscus, the main ingredient in the Jamaican drink, is surprisingly nutritious. And it also has a history as an aphrodisiac as well as nutritional links to sexual health and performance. Not bad for a pretty flower!
Ginger, a common holiday season spice, is the other main flavoring in the classic Jamaican sorrel drink. The ginger balances the tart taste of the hibiscus tea, cutting through with a delicious bite. But it also adds another layer to the aphrodisiac possibilities of this Caribbean drink.
Ginger is known for its ability to raise body heat – perhaps even prompt the urge to tear off one’s clothes. It also makes the tongue tingle with anticipation. And it makes the lips plump naturally with kissable softness.
The other traditional sorrel drink ingredients I use in my hot sorrel cocktail, including the fragrant, exotic spices of cinnamon, allspice and clove were all historically celebrated as aphrodisiacs. Which is yet another reason to break this ruby-red drink out for some Valentine’s seduction.
Sorrel Toddy - A Hot Sorrel Drink Recipe
For the Sorrel Toddy:
- 1-1/2 ounces sorrel syrup
- 2 ounces Dos Maderas Anejo Rum
- 1 cup hibiscus tea
- cinnamon stick for stirring
For the Sorrel Syrup:
- 1 cup boiling water
- 4 hibiscus flower tea bags or 12 pieces dried hibiscus flowers
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 inch piece of fresh ginger cut into 1/2-inch slices and smashed to release juice
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 20 whole allspice berries cracked (put in a zip bag, press down with the bottom of a saucepan)
- 20 whole cloves
For the Sorrel Syrup:
- Place teabags or hibiscus flowers in a mug or heatproof measuring cup. Pour boiling water over. Steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove teabags, strain liquid into a measuring cup. You should have 6 ounces (3/4 cup).
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, toast the allspice and cloves just until they become aromatic – up to 1 minute, do not burn.
- Add the hibiscus infusion, sugar, and rest of spices.
- Bring to a rolling boil and remove from heat (before it boils over). Steep an additional 15 minutes or more.
- Strain and cool completely.
- I store my sorrel syrup in a squeeze bottle in the refrigerator with the cinnamon sticks from the cooking. It’s good for about 7-10 days.
To make the cocktail:
- Add the sorrel syrup and rum to the hot hibiscus tea. Stir with a cinnamon stick and serve warm.
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