Add a splash of sorrel to your holiday cocktails

Source:Reuters Published: 2015-12-25 5:03:02

Photo: IC

Trinidad & Tobago is filled with astounding diversity - its ecology, its people and, not least of all, its food. Featuring a cuisine that is a mix of African, East Indian, Chinese, Native Islander, Spanish and Portuguese influences, holidays in the nation run the gamut of cultures.

At Christmas time, Spanish pasteles made by the dozens by some families are sold by street vendors, and costumed bands sing parang or, really, paranda - that is, Spanish ballads - door to door. A rummy fruitcake descended and evolved from the original made by 18th-century Irish indentures is a must have, as is sorrel, a punch made from steeped Roselle hibiscus flowers native to West Africa that came to the Caribbean and Latin America as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Sorrel drinks, like peanut punch and a wide canon of Trinidadian recipes, have a strong foundation in the cuisine of West Africans brought as slaves to the island in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries.

Sorrel can be used in alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. It is made from the calyxes of Roselle hibiscuses. Naturally tart, the flower mixture is sweetened with sugar and made aromatic with cinnamon and clove. In Trinidad, where it has become popular year-round, bay leaf is also added, while ginger is a common addition in other island nations such as Jamaica.

Sorrel is most often made at home during the holiday season, and then rum or gin can be added as desired. In the US, Jackie Summers, a former publishing executive from Brooklyn, began bottling sorrel, a premixed alcoholic version of the drink, in 2012.

"My first encounter with sorrel was around 5 years old at the annual West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn," said Summers, who often refers to himself as "the Liquortarian." "There was dancing and floats and steel drum music and beef patties and this delicious tart drink that tasted like nothing I'd ever had."

As an adult, Summers tinkered with making sorrel in his home kitchen, eventually bottling an alcoholic version of the drink for family and friends.

"I'd been making sorrel at home for friends and family for almost 20 years with no commercial aspirations," he said. "Then four years ago I had a cancer scare. When I was lucky enough to come out of surgery and found that the tumor on my spine was benign and I found out I was going to live, I knew I couldn't go back to my old life in corporate America."

 Summers' version of the traditional drink is smooth yet complex, proving itself an ideal mixer for all manner of holiday cocktails. Moroccan Roselle hibiscus is mixed with a pure wheat alcohol that is both certified organic and kosher then spiced with Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg, cassia and Brazilian clove.

Sorrel works particularly well with sparkling wine or in the Crown Heights Negroni, developed by Summers.

Whether making sorrel at home with the recipe below or buying Summers' variety, home mixologists will find this sweet-tart ruby elixir an indispensable twist for holiday entertaining.

Hot Buttered Sorrel

Brewed with warm spices, sorrel is a natural, if surprising, twist on hot buttered rum. This recipe, from Jackie Summers, makes for a cozy drink on a chilly winter's day.

Prep and cook time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 cocktails

Ingredients

4 tablespoon butter

8 heaped tablespoons brown sugar

12 ounces sorrel

2 ounces spiced rum

4 thin lemon slices

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan, then add the brown sugar. Whisk well and continue to whisk until the sugar melts and begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.

2. Stir the sorrel into the caramel mixture, whisking well.

3. Divide the mixture among 4 mugs and add an equal amount of the spiced rum to each.

4. Garnish each mug with a lemon slice and a pinch of grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Serve warm.

Reuters
Newspaper headline: A bit of Caribbean color


Posted in: Food

blog comments powered by Disqus