In the Caribean sorrel drink is made from calyces of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), a species of Hibiscus native to the Old World
tropics, also known as the Flower of Jamaica. In Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago
the plant is called 'sorrel'. The sorrel drink is prepared by boiling
dried calyces of the Flower of Jamaica plant in water for 8 to 10
minutes (or until the water turns red), then adding sugar. It is often
Left: A roselle
In Jamaica additional flavor is added by using ginger
and rum. It is a popular drink of the country at Christmas time. It is also very
popular in Trinidad & Tobago but the ginger is substituted for cinnamon and
cloves for added flavour. In Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Benin
calyces are used to prepare cold, sweet drinks popular in social events, often
mixed with mint leaves, dissolved menthol candy, and/or various fruit flavors.
The drink is one of several
inexpensive beverages (aguas frescas) commonly consumed in Mexico and
Central America, and they are typically made from fresh fruits, juices or
In addition to being a popular homemade drink, Jarritos, a popular brand of
Mexican soft drinks, makes a Flor de Jamaica flavored carbonated beverage.
Imported Jarritos can be readily found in the U.S.
With the advent in the U.S. of interest in south-of-the-border cuisine, the
calyces are sold in bags usually labeled "Flor de Jamaica" and have long been
available in health food stores in the U.S. for making a tea that is high in
vitamin C. This drink is particularly good for people who have a tendency,
temporary or otherwise, toward water retention: it is a mild diuretic.
Left: Bag of Flor de
Jamaica calyces from Mexico, manufactured by Comercial Mexicana.
In the UK the dried calyces and ready-made sorrel syrup are widely and cheaply
available in Caribbean and Asian grocers. The fresh calyces are imported mainly
during December and January in order to make Christmas and New Year infusions,
which are often made into cocktails with additional rum. They are very
perishable, rapidly developing fungal rot, and need to be used soon after
purchase - unlike the dried product, which has a long shelf-life.