Hibiscus blossoms are hard to miss, with their showy flares of flower: petals like a flamenco dancer’s swirling skirts, their prominent stigma proffering up pollen to patrolling bees. The buds look good enough to eat—and, in fact, many species of hibiscus are. Parts of the plant feature prominently in food and beverage traditions of the Americas, Caribbean, Africa and Asia, with the plant traveling under different names: roselle, flor de Jamaica, sorrel. The dried petals and calyxes have a tart, bright flavor, a bit like cranberry, and add a deep crimson color to drinks. The flower turns up in Mexican aguas frescas and sodas; spiced teas in Egypt, Senegal and other parts of Africa; and sweetened infusions in Thailand. The flavor is often enhanced with spices or herbs like ginger, cinnamon and mint; sweetened with honey; and tarted up further with citrus.
Today, bartenders are picking up these global threads and weaving them into modern drinks—turning Margaritas pink, adding sourness and floral notes to highballs, or dropping glowing calyx garnishes into Champagne, where the wine’s bubbles spread the red around. Here are some jewels to remember this spring.
A beautiful balance of bold mezcal and bright hibiscus.
DIY Hibiscus Tea
From Minero in Charleston, a hibiscus tea made with dried flowers and spices.
Vodka and cinnamon syrup flavor this hibiscus cocktail.
Hibiscus Tea Cobbler
Hibiscus tea anchors this Cognac-based cobbler from Bar Casa Vale in Portland, Oregon.
Hibiscus-lavender honey lends a floral depth to this easy-drinking shandy.
Mix batches by the pitcher, swap in pisco for tequila, or cut the recipe with sparkling water.
Chile peppers and hibiscus sing in this booze-free refresher.
Limantour’s Jamaica Cocktail
Spiced hibiscus syrup, earthy mezcal, fresh lime and a pinch of cardamom.
Hibiscus helps cut through the heat of habanero in this twist on the Tequila Sunrise.
A zero-proof mix of hibiscus, lime, cinnamon and sage.
Ponche de Mezcal
This New Year’s punch tastes festive all year long.
A Paloma riff made with hibiscus concentrate and your choice of base spirit.
A bright and frothy combo of gin, hibiscus, lemon and egg white.
Like what you see? Get more of the best of liquid culture when you sign up for our bi-monthly magazine. Subscribe now and save up to 59%—it’s just $21.95 for one year or $32.95 for two years. Click here for details.