Hot Hibiscus

courtesy Tbridge
courtesy Tbridge

Spiced hibiscus tea works great as a refreshing, versatile mixer on the rocks with Vodka, Gin, Rum, Brandy, Tequila, and, of course, our beloved Bourbon!  One winter we decided to throw some in a mug and heat it up.  It was so delicious hot that we quickly made it one of our holiday party favorites that delights everyone since they get to choose what spirit to add.

If you can’t find dried hibiscus (aka sorrel or flor de jamaica) in Hispanic grocery stores or your local gourmet market, in a pinch you can substitute lesser quality bagged teas like Red Zinger if you can’t find the real deal. You do get better concentration of flavor from using the calyces of the flower instead of the powdered bits in a tea bag.

courtesy emily barney
courtesy emily barney

The addition of grains of rice the second day results in a very slight fermentation that adds complexity to the flavor.

  • 3 quarts Water
  • 1 cup Raw Sugar
  • 2 cups Dried Hibiscus
  • 1/4 cup Grated Fresh Ginger
  • Peel of a whole orange
  • Peel of a whole lemon
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon Whole Cloves
  • 15 grains of Rice
  • 2-3 Star Anise pods, optional as garnish

Boil the water and add sugar, stirring until dissolved.

Add hibiscus, ginger, citrus peels, cinnamon, and cloves.

Leave out for 24 hours.

Next day, strain into large metal, ceramic or glass container, discarding solids. Don’t use cast iron or hibiscus will turn from reddish to dark purple color from reaction with iron.

Add rice and let stand for another 24 hours, unrefrigerated.

Add to crock pot or put pan on stovetop with eye on lowest setting to keep warm for party guests.  I like to decorate with a star anise pod or two floating on the top. Assemble mugs or favorite punch cups.  Set out bottles of Rum, Gin, Bourbon, Tequila, Vodka, and Brandy for your guests to choose their own boozy adventure!