Agua de Jamaica

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Here’s a quick one for the weekend: hibiscus flower agua fresca – the most vibrantly colored summer drink since the invention of “Red #40”, just redder and better for you, no artificial coloring agents involved; just dried, rehydrated and steeped hibiscus flowers, that’s all there is to it. In Mexico, where this drink is from, hibiscus flowers are called flores de jamaica, funnily enough in Denmark the same flowers are called hawaii flowers – I guess one exotic place is just as good as the next when you’re living far enough away…

Hibiscus flowers have an exotic, slightly tart flavor reminiscent of cranberries. This particular agua fresca – or non-alcoholic cooler – is a little different from its relatives which are (mostly) fruit based drinks; it’s steeped flowers, an infusion, almost like a tea – but “Iced Infusion of Hibiscus Flowers” just doesn’t have the right ring to it, somehow. “Agua de Jamaica” on the other hand, sounds like it tastes: exotic, refreshing and like something that you ‘d order off any menu, just because it sounds so good. It goes well with a slice of lime over ice in a tall glass.


Agua de Jamaica

makes about 1.25 l (5 cups)

60 g (2 cups) dried hibiscus flowers
180 g (3/4 cup) sugar
1.5 l (6 cups) water

1. Put the flowers, sugar and water into a medium saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil and boil the mix for a minute.
3. Remove from the heat and let the flowers steep for 2 hours if you can; you’re patience will be rewarded.
4. Strain and press on the flowers to extract all the juice.
5. Chill, pour over ice and serve with a slice (or a squeeze) of lime.

Note: this makes a light, if very flavorful syrup. I like to mix mine with some water before pouring it over ice; the kids like it “straight up”.


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