I once got the question what to do about the very sour tartness of the blood red hibiscus ”tisane” called jamaica (hamaica) which is made with water and dried hibiscus flowers and indeeed is very tart. When you drink it unsweetened your tongue crumble.
The question was how much really to sweeten it as there were other sweeteners going to be used in the drinks at the bar.
When i got the question i was thinking of my own experinces with hibiscus flowers which is in the making of my hibiscus grenadine which i do quite often. I know that in the grenadine the flowers adds a very fresh and tasty tropical touch. The grenadine is sweetened with simple syrup and its pretty sweet.
I decided to make a small batch to find out which ratios of sugar or syrup was needed to get it tasty instead of tart with a dry-mouth-feel aftertaste. The key is to sweeten the hibiscus drink enough much – but at the same time keep it sweet-tart balanced as its going to be used in drinks which may also be sweetened with other things. Its good to taste while you are boiling it until you find the right sweetness, or you sweeten it afterwards.
And even though you`ll use something to sweeten your drinks you can still sweeten Jamaica quite a bit because it really is tart.
I added 1 oz agave syrup, stirred, then tasted, then added another 1 oz more etc and found it was good after 3 oz. It wasn`t too sweet, but still a bit tart but now in a pleasant way.
Here is the way i made it:
2 cups (5dl) water to 2 handful of dried hibiscus flowers
3 oz ( 90 ml) agave syrup
Boil for 5 minutes
Cool for 2 hrs
That`s it! i got a flavor that is sweet enough to temper the tartness but with some sourness still in it, enough to add that deliscious zing and still compose a good balance. This hibiscus drink is very useful, its fresh, tangy and light, wonderful as a cocktail mixer and can of course be drunk without alcohol as a summer refreshener.
I imagine Jamaica goes well with most spirits and that it would pair well with all manner of citrus fruits, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, vanilla, almond, pear, guava, banana, pineapple, mango, passionfruit, mint, basil, cilantro, red beet juice, cherry, apple, pomegranate juice and surely much more.
Next time i`m going to grate some fresh ginger into it maybe paired with some fresh lemongrass, honey and vanilla – spices that adds some warmness to the sourness, sweetened with syrup, raw sugar or/and honey.
So now when we have the Jamaica we need a cocktail right? as the Jamaica is both tart, fruity and have a fresh tropical flavor i think its fitting with something light and refreshing and then i added some Campari. Its not summer i know – but i want to pretend it is.
1.5 oz Gin
I have found out also that the hibiscus flowers can be dried again after use and be re-used one more time. Just place them in a strainer and let them get much air, they take a little time to dry completely, then place them in a jar until its time to re-use them.
Then you use a bit less water than the first time and boil them a little bit longer to extract all the remaining flavour and color.