Playing with Flowers – Hibiscustini Sparkler with a Jamaican Twist

I love hibiscus tea. I got hooked on it a few years back after a visit to a local Middle Eastern Market that sold it dried in giant bags. Basically, you steep the dried flower petals in boiling water and voila, you have a deep crimson beverage that is tart and amazing. It’s kind of like a cranberry and a rose got busy at the bar one night and their love child was hibiscus.

One day a friend of mine, knowing my obsession with hibiscus drinks, brought me a jar of hibiscus syrup with whole hibiscus flowers inside. The jar said to mix the syrup with a sparkling wine, add a flower or two, and wow your friends. I ended up mixing it with a lemon-lime soda and drinking it all in less than a day. But, it gave me a great idea…

I’d been talking to a friend who mentioned this amazing Jamaican drink called sorrel. It uses sorrel leaves (hibiscus) and spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and all kind of yummy stuff – then booze. Oh yeah, lots of it. So I thought – what if I made a sorrel inspired hibiscus simple syrup and mixed that with a sparkling beverage, like Prosecco? So I totally did it. Then I made the simple syrup. Yeah, I said it.

2 cups of dried hibiscus flowers – any brand will do.
1 cup of water
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
4 cloves
2 inches of fresh ginger
¼ cup of fresh mint leaves or 1 tablespoon of dried spearmint leaves
Thinly sliced lime rounds (for garnish)
1 bottle of Prosecco, or your favorite dry sparkling white wine. (I prefer Prosecco because it isn’t sweet and this simple syrup is – so the two balance each other. But play around with different mixes, heck, even some hard liquor like vodka or rum with a lemon-lime soda would be yummy!)
Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka? Bryanne E Salazar: Hibiscustini
Peel the ginger and cut it into chunks. Then, plop everything except the limes and the Prosecco (or hard liquor if that’s your route) into a medium size pot on the stove and turn your heat to high. As soon as it comes to a rolling boil, reduce it to medium heat, cover and let it continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes to thicken. You’ll need to stir this once in awhile because it will get sticky and you don’t want any of the spices or ginger/mint to get stuck on the bottom and burn.

Next, turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature, uncovered, for at least an hour. This will let those flavors really bloom in the syrup. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and dump the mash left behind in the trash. Or if you’re one of those composters, then run out to your fabulous garden and mix the organic matter into your compost pile. Twirl around in the sunshine and let a butterfly land on your nose while you’re at it. I’m not jealous of you. Whatever.

You now have about a cup and a half of beautiful deep red simple syrup with some serious flavor. Store the syrup in a jar with a tight fitting lid (I put it in an old washed out pickle jar and stuck some cling-wrap on the top. What? Who keeps track of pickle jar lids?) Let the syrup get really cold before you use it – like overnight cold. But if you’re like me and can’t wait for a damn thing, pour four tablespoons of the syrup in a glass jar and stick it in your freezer. It’ll be cold in a few minutes.

Now pop that bottle of non-Champagne open. Watch your teeth. Those corks have serious velocity behind them. If you’re going with hard liquor; twist open the lid, lazy.

For Prosecco/sparkling wine users: In chilled glasses (I don’t care what you use, mason jars work just fine) pour about 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the hibiscus simple syrup and then pour in your Prosecco until the foam almost reaches the top. If it overflows no one will know if you slurp really fast. Just don’t leave any lipstick evidence on the rim of the glass. Stir lightly and top with two slices of thin-lime rounds. Pretty!

For hard liquor lovers: In chilled glasses add equal parts simple syrup and booze. Try not to go beyond half the glass with the 50-50 mixture. Then, add your favorite lemon-lime soda. Stir lightly and add your lime slices.

Be careful – this drink is deceptively strong. It is sweet and pretty and feels really light and bubbly. After two I was promising my husband a night like our honeymoon and then telling all my friends on Facebook how much I loved them. Don’t be me. You’ve been warned.