Jamaican 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.

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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!

Jamaican Sorrel Drink
Votes: 4
Rating: 4.75
You:
Rate this recipe!
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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.
Jamaican Sorrel Drink
Votes: 4
Rating: 4.75
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
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.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried hibiscus , dried sorrel if you can find it
  • 2 inches ginger , sliced into thin coins for mild flavor, chopped/grated for stronger flavor
  • 1 orange , peel
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar , to taste
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a pot, cover and bring to a gentle simmer. About 10 minutes.
  2. Then simmer for another 30 minutes to extract all the spiced goodness.
  3. Cool and refrigerate overnight for strongest flavor.
  4. Strain, mix with ice, water and rum.

38 Comments

  1. Collette says

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

    • Sorrel is not Hibiscus, do not let people go use hibiscus make drink, sorrel is a different flower from the hibiscus that we use the petals off the pod that holds the seed to make the drink, hibiscus is another flower locally called the shoe black, it is our national flower, I wish people would investigate what they post before posting it! Am Jamaican Hibiscus is not Sorrel

      • Thelma Stubbs says

        I agree with everything except ‘it is our national flower’ The Lignum Vitae flower is our national flower!

      • cyndi says

        Thank you. I’m only here because I KNOW there’s a difference. husband’s jamaican and mentioned to me before. i just happened to be in store looking for sorrell but found a pretty box never arm before labeled Jamaican Hibiscus (googled it 🤔and its how i got here right now, yes I’m in the store 🤣which I bought anyway for day or so till I see it another sorrell at another food lion or international store.

      • maisie says

        You are so right. Don’t understand why they would call sorrel hibiscus. It can be misleading to some who don’t know the sorrel plant. Am from St. Kitts and that’s our favorite drink at Christmas. Love it!!

  2. Shreela says

    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!)

    • Sasha Martin says

      LOL your kitty cat is funny. Also, I totally agree regarding the sugar… hibiscus is very tart.

    • 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.

    • I just leave a comment on that as well and just saw yours, just make me angry when people posting Jamaican recipe and don’t know the hell what their talking about when Google is there to help them if they don’t know a Jamaican or other islander who can. Kmt

  3. 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.

    • For the record, Caribbean people drink sorrel, but sorrel is not a Caribbean drink, no more so than saying yams are a Caribbean vegetable. Sorrel in some form is drank in many cultures around the world. Sorrel is popular in Africa, Asia and some South American countries. Sorrel is also popular in just about every Caribbean country, albeit sometimes called a different name. There are many recipes for sorrel, even among Jamaicans. A final note, sorrel and hibiscus are cousins, very-very similar, much like the yam and sweet potatoes. With all of that said, I prefer Jamaican sorrel, with a twist of lime, a little rum and I will add that Jamaicans are responsible for exporting the drinking of sorrel into many cultures where it was unknown.

  4. Charmain says

    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.

  5. shanakay thomas says

    Sounds ok but as a Jamaican traditionally we don’t use cinimon or orange peel in our Sorrell . We use Sorrell, ginger ,pimento seeds , bed label wine and white run and we normally make the Sorrell drink a month or so before Christmas to get the real kick of it.

    • Chef Rich says

      True. Sorrel is a delicate traditionally Christmas beverage that doesn’t need to be overpowered with so much spice . In order to allow its flavor to be pronounced you put ginger and pimento(whole allspice) steep preferably overnight. Kicked up pa notch by adding J. Wray & Nephew white overproof rum/ Red Label wine. Voila!

  6. I am Jamaican and must say , that the recipe for sorrel here is the basic, Jamaicans do however put rice ,pimemtos,cloves and cinimom. My mothers recipe does have orange and lime peel in it.This brings a fresh taste to it. Sorrel and hibicus are related , they are cousin iin the plant world and are similar in taste. Charmain,there are diffrent types of hibicus plants that exist. Just are there are diffrent types of yams,potatatoes and so on and so on.Do not think only of the plants we have on the island and those are not edible.

  7. Stephanie says

    I haven’t read all of these comments but a lot of people are saying hibiscus flower and sorrel (plant) are different things, which is true, but Panamanians with West Indian roots call the drink AND the flower sorrel (or saril) so that may have been where you got that from. Not actually a mix-up 😉

  8. Argentina says

    Stephanie. I too am from Panama Here in Washington state the Mexicans call Hibiscus , “Flor de Jamaica.” When I take Sorrel to any function I make sure and let them know this is not Hibiscus flower.

  9. Regina carter says

    Hello can someone please tell me which is best out of sorrel and hibiscus please cause i been buying hibiscus tea bags..i have alopicia and someone told me sorrel was good for that and will help with getting my hair to grow so iam trying to find out which is best and i did read up on both but still confuse and i also hear that they both side effect is they can mess with your liver.can somebody please help me with this about both tea.thank you

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  11. Have been reading the comments. To clear up some misconceptions. When a US person refers to sorrel or hears of sorrel they most likely think of Rumex acetosa the Botanical name for a plant that is commonly known as “spinach dock” or just “dock”. The sorrel drink that is referenced here is not from that plant. It is made from the calyx of a particular hibiscus plant grown in Jamaica. It is Roselle Hibiscus Sabdariffa. However the flower (petals) is not used to make the drink. The drink is made from soaking the dried calyx of this particular hibiscus flower. There are many types of hibiscus just as there are many types of roses.
    The calyx comprise the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. Traditionally sorrel was served in Jamaica at Christmas time. The tradition was that friends would drop by to taste your Christmas pudding and sip your sorrel. Every household made their pudding and brewed their sorrel. Sorrel drink was left to ferment and so have a kick in it, just like cider is fermented juice. As many mentioned, sometimes rum was added. The traditional added ingredients are ginger, cinnamon, all spice, and cloves and of course sugar. If some added orange peel etc that was out of the norm but there is nothing wrong with adding ingredients to taste.
    Sorrel is particularly delicious and refreshing and in recent years it has grown in popularity to be brewed and had year round especially in the US States. Missing Jamaica in cold winter mornings I will sip hot sorrel, and drink tumblers of it with ice and seltzer water in the hot summers. My guests all love it.
    Hispanics stores usually sell the dried hibiscus as “flor de Jamaica”, or you can buy it on line from a number of stores. Just google it.

  12. Samantha says

    Sorrel drink is made from the sepals of the roselle flower. The roselle is in the hibiscus genus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). The actual sorrel plant is in the rumex genus (Rumex acetosa). The drink is named sorrel but it’s really hibiscus. My husband is Jamaican and they seem to adopt names for things that are similar but not exact and I think that’s where confusion comes from. Sorrel drink is delicious, we make it every Christmas.

  13. A German says

    I am of Jamaican parentage and lived in Jamaica for 4 years. No offense to Natural born Jamaicans but many names for things are incorrect. Sorrel is a spinach-like plant and what Jamaicans call Sorrell is really from the Roselle plant. The calyx of the plant is used to make what Jamaicans call sorrell. To make it more confusing, the Mexicans call the drink, Jamaica( the J is pronounced like an H]. The proper name for Mexicans is fleur de Jamaica or Flower of Jamaica in English. Their drink does not contain spices and when it does for special occasions, it is called Ponche(punch). Another example is pimento(allspice) which means pepper in Spanish. The Spanish mistook Allspice for pepper when they were in the island, hence the misnomer. Ocho Rios[8 rivers in Spanish) is another example because there were never 8 rivers at that location.

  14. maisie says

    You are so right. Don’t understand why they would call sorrel hibiscus. It can be misleading to some who don’t know the sorrel plant. Am from St. Kitts and that’s our favorite drink at Christmas. Love it!!

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