Trinidadian Sorrel

Trinidadian sorrel is a delicious sweet brewed beverage made from dried hibiscus flowers. I enjoyed it every year at Christmastime with my family. It can be served alone, or made into an adult beverage with some rum.

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The taste of sorrel literally transports me back to my childhood Christmas holidays with one sip. My mother used to make this drink with leaves of dried hibiscus flowers, sugar, spices and orange peel and then would fill all the empty bottles she’d been collecting for weeks with the gorgeous garnet-colored drink. Those beautiful bottles, some of them mixed with rum and others left in their virginal state, used to live in the extra refrigerator my family had in the basement. I was always excited when given permission to bring up a bottle and was always dismayed when we came to the last one. 

Sorrel or dried hibiscus flowers on a green wooden table with a jar behind it.

The dried leaves used to make sorrel are actually dried hibiscus flowers. You can find them at specialty markets, West Indian groceries or even online. You’ll use about 1 heaping cup or 2 ounces of leaves to make one 750ml bottle of sorrel, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding how much to buy.

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Ingredients and equipment to make sorrel on a green table - an orange, cinnamon sticks, sugar, cloves, hibiscus flowers and a funnel.

The rest of the ingredients are very simple – sugar, cinnamon, cloves, some orange peel and water. Do remember, however, that you will want bottles to store your sorrel, so save some bottles in the weeks prior to making the recipe.

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Straining brewed sorrel from a saucepan through cheesecloth into a measuring glass.

I can remember as a kid that my mother used to strain the sorrel leaves through cheesecloth and then tied the leaves, spices and orange peel in the cheesecloth and hung it from the door knobs of the kitchen cabinets so that every last drop of sorrel could be collected in the bowls below. You don’t have to go to that extreme if you don’t want to, but it is important not to try to extract as much sorrel as possible by squeezing the sorrel leaves. Doing so would release the tannins in the leaves, adding a bitter or acid note to the drink.

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An empty glass with a mandarin slice, a full glass with sorrel cocktail, a bottle of sorrel and a bottle of rum on a green table.

Once you’ve made the sorrel, there are many ways you can enjoy it. Usually, I drink sorrel straight up on ice with some mandarin slices floating in it, but I also really enjoy the sweet beverage cut with some soda water and a squeeze of lime. If you want to make a cocktail with the sorrel, I recommend mixing 4 ounces of sorrel with 1 ounce of some good Caribbean rum, or about 1 ounce of sorrel with 4 ounces of sparkling wine or champagne – a sorrel kir. However you choose to drink sorrel, you’re in for a treat that is unlike any other drink that I’ve ever had. That said, a bottle of homemade sorrel makes a fantastic and unique gift. Go get those empty bottles!

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A glass of sorrel cocktail with a slice of mandarin as garnish.

Trinidadian Sorrel

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Steeping Time: 2 days
  • Total Time: 2 days 10 m
  • Servings:
    12
    5-ounce cocktails

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces dried sorrel (hibiscus flowers) (heaping 1 cup)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 cloves
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (roughly 1 pound)
  • 2 (4-inch x 1-inch) pieces of orange peel (no pith)
  • 12 cups boiling water
  • 12 ounces dark rum (1½ cups) (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the sorrel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, sugar and orange peel into a large heat-proof bowl or saucepan.
  2. Bring 12 cups of water to a boil and pour the boiling water over the dried sorrel. Let this mixture steep for 1 to 2 days at room temperature, loosely covered.
  3. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Discard the solid ingredients and transfer the liquid to bottles or jars.
  4. To make a sorrel cocktail, mix 4 ounces of sorrel with 1 ounce of dark rum like Mount Gay. Stir together and pour over ice cubes into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.
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Comments (1)Post a Reply

  1. My mother was from Guyana (British Guiana when she left there) and she made sorrel and ginger beer by the gallons every Christmas to share with family and friends. She would use large stoneware crocks to brew them.
    I’m inspired to find some sorrel and use your recipe to make sorrel this Christmas. Thank you for the recipe.

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