One night at dinner a long time ago, we were dining with company at a nice Mexican restaurant. As I was browsing the wine selection, out of nowhere comes, “What’s Jamaica?” Um, sorry, what? Isn’t it an island in the caribbean and what does that have to do with right now? Strange, but whatever. Then again, “It says Jamaica right here on the menu– what’s that?” As I glance down to where my diner guest was pointing, listed right below “horchata” was jamaica and not the island. Of course, I busted up laughing. It was the funiest thing at the time. After explaining that jamaica was a sweetened drink made of dried hibiscus flowers and water all was resolved. To this day, when I think of the drink jamaica, it reminds me of that hilarious night at dinner.
Jamaica is one of my favorite drinks to order with a plate of tacos, especially on a hot day. It is tangy, sweet, and super refreshing. On our last trip to Tijuana, I bought a bag full of jamaica flowers and have been slowly working my way through it since a little goes a long way. I make my hibiscus water super concentrated and water it down as needed along with adding simple syrup to taste.
Jamaica (hibiscus water):
Yield: 2 pitchers
5 oz dried hibiscus flowers
10 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Place the dried hibiscus flowers in a colander and rinse with cold water. Place into a vessel large enough to accommodate the flowers and 10 cups water. Cover with plastic wrap and place outside in the sun. Let sit for 4 hours or more. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or over cheesecloth into a pitcher. Place in the refrigerator to chill completely.
Make the simple syrup:
Comaine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (do not stir or agitate the mixture). Reduce heat and let simmer for 1 minute. Let cool completely.
When simple syrup and hibiscuc water are compeltely cooled down, it’s time to combine and get to drinking. Place a few ice cubes in your glass of choice. Fill the glass with 2/3 concentrated hibiscus water and top off with cold water (sparkling water makes it extra special, but not required) and a few tablespoons of simple syrup to taste.
*I keep the concentrated hibiscus water in a pitcher and dilute as I go along. Alternatively, you could split the concentrate into two pitchers and dilute and sweeten both batches at one time so the drink is ready to pour and enjoy without additional preparation. Both ways work equally well.