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
1.5 oz Jamaica
Top with Lemon soda
Stir with ice and garnish with a fragrant mint sprig.
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.
Beija cachaca is a hand crafted blend of artisanal cachacas from the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Many cachacas are today multi-distilled to become a purer product but at the same time the distillations strips away much of the flavour and characteristic earthiness that makes cachaca so lovable. Beija is made only from the first press of sugarcanes and is distilled within ten hours of pressing and then distilled only once.
The nose is very light, sweet sugarcane paired with a herbal and fruity aromatic aromas and there´s maybe even a slight smokiness here. The flavour is “light grassy” and fresh. This cachaca immediately reminds me very strongly of a good quality rhum agricole blanc and fresh cut sugarcane but with its own personlity and flavour. I think light and fresh are the best words to describe Beija. (Bey`Zha=kiss) i find it different from other cachacas i`ve tried in the terms of fresh sugarcane flavour.
Beija was founded by Kevin Beardsley and Stephen Diforio and they have managed to get a product into the market which is both versatile and mixable. The bottle design also stands up nicely against the rest. An interesting detail on the bottle is the text at the bottom “Virgin Cane Rum” i have never seen that on a cachaca bottle before. A cachaca with a “virgin cane rum” statement on the bottle? i found that fascinating.
I know that cachaca must be imported as “rum” or “Brazilian rum” in the US but i have never seen the cathegory “virgin cane rum” and “cachaca” both written on the same bottle. It turns out after some research that this cachaca has been placed into an entirely new category from the US govt for “virgin cane rum” and its the only product in this cathegory. There are attempts to have cachaca classified as cachaca in the US, let´s see what happens.
And as i just wrote – this is mixable! and very much so. I wonder when we will see this tasty cachaca in Europe?
BEIJA – HIBISCO
2 oz Beija cachaca
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbslp raw sugar syrup
splash hibiscus grenadine
3-4 drops hibiscus tincture
Shake everything except the hibiscus grenadine and serve over crushed ice, add a splash hibiscus grenadine for color and tropical zing. Add a few drops hibiscus tincture on top. This last thing is a beautiful way to garnish an exotic cocktail and this i`ve learnt from here.
The word Beija means kiss in portugese and the word Hibisco means Hibiscus and Beija Hibisco means Hibiscus kiss or kiss the Hibiscus – referring to the hummingbirds which look like they almost kiss the flowers when they collect their nectar. The word Beija-Flor means hummingbird in portugese but the word flor by itself means flower.
I thought the name was fitting as the nectar is the Beija and the Hibiscus flowers in the form of tincture and grenadine is present and the hummingbirds are we the drinkers!
The nose of the mezcal reaches me, its earhty…and smoky…but not overwelmingly so – in a pleasant way it invites you to take a sip.
Its a long time i wanted to try out Del Maguey mezcals and at the Tales i got my chance during their session Agavepalooza. I also got my chance to finally bring home the samples which were laying about in the US with this beautifully handcrafted spirit from the villages in Oaxaca, Mexico using old traditional methods. I was amazed to learn that even airborne microbes at different levels in the air affects the flavour of the mezcal.
In this video Ron Cooper from Del Maguey explains the myths and the seven factors that affects the quality and flavor of the mezcal. You should really watch this video, its very interesting.
In short, those seven factors are the following:
Plant Species – there are about a dozen maguey plants that produces good mezcal, so the plant variety is important as each one gives different flavours.
Altitude – its here the airborne microbes plays their role and at every 300 feet up (100m) its different species of microbes. These airborne microbes affects the fermenting. In commercial tequila and mezcal production chemicals are used but in the production of Del Maguey they wait between 4-30 days to let the airborne microbes start the fermenting.
The soil – Different soils are used, and soil definetily adds a flavour component. Del Maguey uses a soil type that is called tierra amaria. Its a well drained granite-rich soil thus letting the water drain off fast which is very important as water from the soil is not good for the maguey as water through the roots and up in the plant makes it bitter. Instead the plants opens up its poores in the night and absorbs moisture.
Wood – the kind of wood that is used to heat the rocks that roast the hearts on gives off different flavours.
Water – the water of the village also has a flavour effect and the water is used after the hearts are ground and everything is placed in tanks or vats. Different village waters affects the flavours.
The hand of the maker – This is that magic personal touch that every producer of mezcal adds to the product and its possible to by blind tasting tell which village and which specific producer has made a certain mezcal.
Time – is one of the most important factors in a good mezcal – as mezcal is a real slow-food product – this is how flavour is made.
DEL MAGUEY MEZCAL
Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal is produced in different tiny remote villages in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico and each Del Maguey mezcal carries the name of the village where its produced. Only two ingredients are used – water and the heart of the maguey (agave) plant.The traditions used in the production are over 400 years old.
Over hot stones the hearts are roasted in a pit in the ground, covered with banana leaves, woven palm-fiber mats or other plant material and finally earth for 3-5 days absorbing flavors from the earth and wood smoke and oils on the rocks.
After roasting the pinas are removed from the pit and being rested covered by palm mats in the shade for a week – they begin to ferment naturally with the help of airborne microbes.
The roasted hearts are then ground by horse-power into a mash followed by a long natural fermentation period in wooden vats – its here the water of the village plays its role as well as its own yeasts and microbes. Then its slowly distilled twice – in wood-fired clay or copper stills.
The mezcal has both social, ceremonial and medical uses among the villagers and is very highly esteemed.
I received four samples of Del Maguey mezcals and i`ll try to describe them as good as i can:
Made in the village of Chichicapa south of Oaxaca, this mezcal has a lightly earthy nose. It has a earthy flavour too with a hint of smoke and which stays long with you. Its also a bit sweet, a very nice mezcal indeed. Its like a premium all-round mezcal good for both sipping and mixing.
CREMA DE MEZCAL
This one is my favorite, it`s hands down outstanding with a full creamy flavour and a hint of smoke lingering in the background and which slowly grows on you. I spent the entire last night in New York sitting on a rooftop terrace under the stars sharing a bottle of this awesome mezcal with a good friend and so I have fond memories linked with it as well. Its so easy to sip it…. According to Del Maguey this mezcal is made “for women only – and a few strong men”.
Its made in Oaxaca and is a combination of Miel de Maguey (unfermented syrup of the roast agave) and Mezcal San Luis del Rio. I cannot enough recommend this one.
SAN LUIS DEL RIO
Omg..this one is NICE! no wonder Crema de Mezcal is so tasty if it has this one in it. Its earthy, its deep, its spicy and a bit of smoke. Its citrusy too in the nose, so pleasant and my second favorite of these four awesome mezcals.
San Luis del Rio is appr 8000 feet above sea level and south of Oaxaca.
SANTO DOMINGO ALBARRADAS
This mezcal is pretty light and also fruity with a hint of the typical smoke. Its as smooth as the others, very nice and flavourful. If I were to mix with this one I would be careful to not use too much other flavours but rather mix with few ingredients.
Santo Domingo Albarradas is located at high altitude in the high Mixe (Mee-Hay) region south of Oaxaca.
Well what can i say? Del Maguey is the top notch of mezcals. Of course I haven`t tried all mezcals but Del Maguey is good. In New Orleans I also tried the Tobala which is made from wild Maguey that grows in the shade of oak trees at high altitude. The Tobala is sweet and fruity as well as spicy.
Another interesting mezcal I tried was the Pechuga – triple distilled – which is made with wild mountain apples and plums and is only made by the end of the year when these are in season. Other things they add is pineapples, red plantains, figs, almonds, hazelnuts and uncooked white rice.
Furthermore – and this is interesting – a whole chicken breast with skin removed is suspended by strings hanging over the still for 24 hrs and this is the final 3rd distillation.The vapor passes over the chicken breast and condenses it to a clear liquid and only the bones remain. My memory of tasting it is that it was good – no surprise – and spicy, smoky and nope – I didn`t detect any chicken flavour in it but maybe others do.
I like the colorful labels on the bottles too, a bit childlike, very happy and gets me to think about sunshine.
The only final conclusion I can make is that I must try to get more Del Maguey mezcals and never be out of the Crema.
Mezcal is traditionally sipped, and a good mezcal is indeed a wonderful sipper but is also more and more used in cocktail mixing – and that`s part of the reason why i write about cocktails with mezcal as I think it deserves to be used much more. It`s also a very interesting spirit to work with and adds an interesting flavour and may also be floated, rimmed etc.
I recently made a batch of the hibiscus tisane that is called jamaica and I wanted to try it with mezcal, lime and agave syrup. Its a very simple cocktail with only natural ingredients where the mezcal adds some fire and smoke to the tangy lime and jamaica.
The name comes from that the mezcal is produced in Oaxaca, which is the historic home of the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples – mixtec meaning “place of the cloud-people”.
2 oz Del Maguey mezcal chichicapa
¼ oz agave syrup
¼ oz bitter seville orange syrup
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
Top with Jamaica
Shake over ice and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a speared orange wedge and a lime twist.
This cocktail turned out to be very light, fruity and refreshing with a punch of smoke from the mezcal. You may also use just agave or simple syrup if you dont want to make your own bitter seville orang syrup which is very simply made by making a simple syrup with 1:1 (or 2.1 if you prefer) light raw cane sugar and water, then adding 5-6 tblsp of bitter seville orange marmalade. Then cook it for a while , cool and strain.
As for the jamaica just follow the recipe here. If you cannot find hibiscus flowers to make your own jamaica you could use just orange juice or maybe something different like cranberry or pomegranate?
2 cups water to 2 handful of dried hibiscus flowers
3 oz agave syrup
Boil for 5 minutes
Cool for 2 hrs
When cool, strain and bottle.
If you get a chance to try Del Maguey just do it.
There´s something mysterious in the feel about mezcal, something ancient… and it transports you.
What happens if you throw in a handful of dried hibiscus flowers into homemade bright grenadine? – it turns to teh awesome….
When you make homemade grenadine it usually gets paler in color than the commercial variants, but with the dried hibiscus flowers added this isn`t the case anymore, the hibiscus flowers inparts a blood red color. And on top of that they also add a very fresh crisp and floral tropical flavor.
It was my friend Chris Stanley from Rookie libations who first told me about adding dried hibiscus flowers to the grenadine, and i will be forever grateful.
Commercial grenadine cannot compare to homemade and its worth the little effort to make it yourself, it doesn`t take long time either. But you need to have fresh pomegranates and these are fairly expensive, but for home use 1 large pomegranate makes about 1L grenadine.
But the measures are a bit approximate but this is a forgiving recipe, it´s not like baking where everything has to be exact, sometimes i use one large pomegranate (if it´s huge) and sometimes i use two if they are a bit smaller.
Same thing with the flowers, i throw in “a handful” and it always works like a charm..
So here is how to make it:
Get 1-2 large pomegranates, check that they are of good quality. To easiest separate the seeds from the bitter membrane, just cut the pomegranate in quarters and brake loose the seeds under water in a bowl.
The seeds will sink and the membrane float.
In a pot make a simple syrup by adding 1:1 sugar and water, and add the pomegranate seeds and a good handful of dried hibiscus flowers. I find my hibiscus flowers in a health shop. Then lightly boil this for about 5 min, then simmer for another 10 min before taking off the heat and set aside to cool.
Leave to cool and set for 1-2 hrs to really get the flavors out.
Then strain and bottle in a clean bottle and keep the grenadine in the fridge. I dont know how long it lasts before it go bad as I always use it up fairly quick, but I would guess 1-2 months. To get a really bright red color its best to use white or light colored sugar.
See what a bright red color you get because you combine both pomegranate seeds and hibiscus flowers…and it´s all natural.
As I`m very fond of raw sugars and not so much like the refined white sugar I use a raw cane sugar that is called oxfam and it has a very lightly tinted white/goldish color which doesnt darken the final grenadine color.
Here is one of my favorite drinks containing grenadine and which becomes even tastier with hibiscus grenadine.