Celebrate Christmas like a Jamaican (Recipe: Sorrel Drink)

Makes at least 1 1/2 quarts (more, depending on how much you dilute it)

August has drug on too long. I know because the mosquitoes have given up for the summer. Not a one can be found. They’ve been cooked off. I’ve been shriveling up, too. Thankfully a few of our readers suggested I try sorrel, Jamaica’s perky, often spiked answer to iced tea, typically served at Christmastime.

Sorrel is better than pouring a bucket of ice down your back. And it’s (literally) cooler than mulled wine (although I like that too).

Imagine: It’s December. The sun has her cheery face on. The tin roofs are hot. Cats hide in the shade while people sip sorrel in flip flops.

Christmastime in Jamaica.

Prime Sorrel drinkin’ time. 

I love it!

Now, let’s get clear on terminology… (UPDATE: Please check the comments  – I seem to have this mixed up a bit…)

Sorrel is the Jamaican word for hibiscus, a flower which grows abundantly on the island. Even though this drink is served on ice, sorrel retains the flavors of the holiday season – cinnamon, all spice, fresh ginger. For those who wish, rum sends it over the edge for a truly relaxing holiday season.

While Jamaican’s make this with fresh hibiscus, harvested in December, you can find dried hibiscus at African markets, some health food stores, or boxed up in tea bag form at Whole Foods and other stores with good tea selections, making it a perfect year-round treat.


2 cups whole, dried sorrel (a.k.a. dried hibiscus)
2 inches ginger, sliced in thin coins for mild flavor, or chopped/grated for stronger flavor.
The peel of 1 orange
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cups water
Sugar to taste (about 1 cup seemed good to me)

For diluting:

Water, rum, and/or ice, as desired


There is a season for everything. Until now.

Get yourself ready for Jamaican Christmas, available any season you want.

All you need is an orange, hibiscus, cinnamon, and ginger.

Peel the orange and slice (or grate) the ginger. I think I’ll grate it next time – the ginger flavor was a bit weak for my tastes. I like it to zing!

Add all ingredients to a pot, cover and bring to a gentle simmer. This took about 10 minutes. Then simmer for another 30 minutes to extract all the spiced goodness. Cool and refrigerate overnight for strongest flavor.

Strain, mix with ice, water and – if you’re feeling plucky – rum.

Batman approves!

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  1. That looks and sounds good…. but I think I will need rum in mine, lol.

  2. Jessica Bennett says:

    Oh yum, and definitely yes to the rum (especially tonight).

  3. That sounds delicious! Also I definitely have that Batman mug.

  4. Sasha Martin says:

    Go team rum and – especially – team Batman! ;)

  5. Sounds so lovely and refreshing! Does dried sorrel have any relation to fresh sorrel?

  6. I can’t believe I spent so many Christmases in Jamaica as a child and never had this!

  7. I buy hibiscus tea from Fiesta Mart in Houston; sometimes they won’t have it, so I ask the produce manager and it’s there in a week or two. I’ve never made it with spice, and haven’t mixed it with alcohol, just drank it as tea with stevia. IMO, hibiscus tea requires more sweetening than other teas. Don’t let it get on light cloth for it stains! And if your cat is weird like mine, watch out your cat doesn’t try to drink it out of your glass (he never tries drinking anything else out of my glass, but 3 times for hibiscus tea!)

  8. Just so you know, sorrel is not dried hibiscus. two totally different plants.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I did a lot of reading on this and asked a few people… from my understanding they are related and taste similar. I’d love to do a side by side comparison, but don’t have access of course.

  9. Kimmisha Thomas says:

    No. I have a correction. Sorrel is not the Jamaican word for hibiscus though one may be forgiven for thinking so because of the similar rich red hue. They are two different plants.

  10. i love drinking sorrel but i just want to say sorrel is a caribbean drink

  11. I found your recipe for sorrel drink to be very helpful. My only problem is that you said that hibiscus and sorrel are the same plant and that is not so. Hibiscus is a flower of the Island while sorrel is the fruit that is used to make the drink. To my knowledge I have never seen anyone use the hibiscus flower to make sorrel drink.

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