Hibiscus/Jamaica/Sorrel/Karkade

One of the last big family trips we took, while I was in the early years of college and “cough” smoking a pipe was to Egypt.

A lot of things about that trip were revelations for me: Savory Breakfasts, Grain Salads, Middle Eastern Tea, African Coffee

But one thing that stuck with me was a hibiscus beverage that was served from spigots by men carrying tanks of it on their backs.

I’d always liked Red Zinger tea, and it was similar, as well as the Mexican hibiscus beverage called “Agua de Jamaica”, but none of these were as cool as the sort of steam punk aesthetic of these men serving hibiscus beverage out of tanks on their backs.

When I started thinking about a second Milk Punch to make for The Coachman, our bar manager remarked that he really liked the color of the first Milk Punch I had ever made. It was a recipe for a Rum based Milk Punch colored with Hibiscus, which I’d adapted from the bar Drink in Boston.

Rum Hibiscus Milk Punch

Not wanting to simply repeat myself, and the guys at Drink, I thought a bit more about it and decided to blend that recipe with the Pisco Milk Punch I’d made for the SF.Chefs.Unite benefit for Japan. Pisco is floral, so it seemed like a natural combination with dried Hibiscus flower tea.

The Punch turned out awesome, but what I’ve been really enjoying is a compound non-alcoholic beverage made with the spiced Hibiscus tea I used to sweeten the punch.

As you know I am often frustrated by the qualities of so-called non-alcoholic adult beverages in the US (Lack of Adult Beverages). I would really like something that is close to wine in sweet/tart balance in intensity, but not alcoholic. Shrubs often come close, though are often made too concentrated. This beverage is the closest I’ve come so far to an enjoyable compound shrub.

Quick Hibiscus and Cranberry Shrub

In a pint glass, combine a quarter cup of chilled, spiced hibiscus syrup* with a quarter cup of chilled, unsweetened cranberry juice and a generous teaspoon of natural cider vinegar (Hey! A fine use for the Cider Vinegar from the Bragg Foods health food cult! Try not to used distilled vinegar, it’s pretty harsh, dude.). Top up with chilled soda water and enjoy this refreshing and bracing beverage. Feel free to add booze, Rum or Tequila are awesome. Also, a fine all hallows eve beverage, as it looks like you are drinking a pint of blood.

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*Spiced Hibiscus Syrup

3 Pints Water
3 Cup Sugar (Washed Raw Sugar or Demerara preferably)
1 Cup Dried Hibiscus Flowers
2 Cinnamon Sticks
9 Whole Clove
1 teaspoon Whole Coriander
1/4 Cup Yerba Mate

METHOD: (If the Hibiscus Flowers are really dirty, put them in cold water briefly and allow the dirt to settle out. Grab floating hibiscus flowers off of settled dirt.) Bring Water to a Boil with Sugar to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and steep for a few hours or overnight. Strain out solids and filter a second time through coffee filters. Refrigerate in a non-reactive container.

Shrubs

At this point, none of these Shrub recipes really make sense to me, even enough to try making.

Things I know:

There are two things commonly called Shrub(b). One is fruit (typically citrus) infused booze. The fruit infused booze is sometimes spelled “Shrubb” and may be traditional in the Caribbean (or West Indies). The commercial example of this is Clement Creole Shrubb. The other Shrub is a flavored Syrup. Sometimes this flavored syrup has added vinegar, sometimes added booze. Presumably the booze or vinegar is added as a preservative, so the Shrub can be bottled for later use.

I guess the Rum Shrub below sounds vaguely like the process I’ve heard for the Caribbean (West Indian) Shrub(b), whole fruit aged with booze and sweetened.

The other recipes are interesting mostly for their complete lack of fermentation or vinegar, two things I had previously assumed to be necessary for the other style of Shrub. They basically seem like prepared cocktails, or flavored syrups.

I’m going to do some more research and attend an upcoming class that Jennifer Colliau and Aaron Gregory are giving at Cuesa.

CUESA & UKSF Class: Shrubs!Aaron Gregory Smith of 15 Romolo and the SF USBG! Thursday, June 23, 2011, 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM.

Hopefully, afterwards, Shrubs will make enough sense that I can get down with some Shrub related projects this summer.

I keep thinking a Rhubarb Shrub(b) might be fun…

Shrubs.

Brandy Shrub
To the thin rinds of 2 Lemons and the juice of 5, add 2 quarts of Brandy; cover it for 3 days, then add a quart of Sherry and 2 pounds of loaf Sugar, run it through a jelly bag and bottle it.

Rum Shrub
Put 3 pints of Orange Juice and 1 pound of loaf Sugar to a gallon of Rum. Put all into a cask, and leave it for 6 weeks, when it will be ready for use.

Currant Shrub
1 Pint of Sugar.
1 Pint of Strained Currant Juice.
Boil it gently for eight or ten minutes, skimming it well; take if off and, when lukewarm, add half a gill of Brandy to every pint of Shrub. Bottle tight.

White Currant Shrub
Strip the fruit, and prepare in a jar, as for jelly; strain the juice, of which put two quarts to 1 gallon of Rum, and 2 pounds of Lump Sugar; strain through a jelly bag.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.