Jamaican Sorrel Sangria

(Last Updated On: 3rd March 2016)

By Kari Heron

My house, though nestled in the sandy dunes of Arabia, has the smell of a tropical Jamaican Christmas and New Year wafting through the air. As a child of the tropics and Jamaican expatriate, food is my home away from home. In an instant, a smell, a taste, a sighting of a traditional ingredient or any combination of the above transforms my little Middle Eastern Villa into an idyllic tropical getaway.

These three recipes – Jamaican Sorrel Sangria, Tropical Holiday Salad and Jamaican Roast Chicken – will sweep you off to a foodie holiday with me, to my little paradise island. These are quick, practical recipes and made with ingredients that are readily available in the region. As a rule, I favour recipes that make for efficient use of energy and resources. In other words, less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the company of your family and friends!

Traditionally, every Jamaican home has a roast of sorts, a sangria cocktail we call “Sorrel” and coconut in some recipe (usually in Rice and Peas). Here is my take on the representation of those three flavours – the sorrel, the coconut and the roast. Not surprisingly, ‘Allspice’, a spice native to Jamaica, features prominently in two of these recipes. No surprise here for this is the queen of all spices and no Jamaican home is ever without it. In fact, a Jamaican home without allspice is like a sailboat without sails!


  • 6 cups sorrel (hibiscus, karkade, roselle)
  • 24 cups or 5.5 litres water
  • 1 kg + 2 cups brown cane sugar
  • 1 litres red wine (preferably port)*
  • 1⁄2 cup Appleton Jamaican Rum (optional)
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • 2 tsp whole allspice
  • 2 inches peeled Indian ginger sliced in 3 pieces


  1. Bring the water to a low boil in a large stockpot.
  2. Add hibiscus, cloves, allspice and ginger and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let it sit until cool, preferably overnight.
  4. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, discarding the trash.
  5. Add the sugar, wine (and rum if using) and stir repeatedly until all the sugar crystals at the bottom of the liquid dissolve.
  6. Pour into glass bottles with airtight caps and leave on counter for 2-3 days to ferment slightly.
  7. Transfer bottles to fridge and keep for up to a year. The drink gets better with age. Some of the sugars will be converted to alcohol as the drink matures with age, which is why I have made it very sweet. If too sweet upon serving, simply dilute with a little water.
  8. You can also serve it immediately, though it’s best when made at least a week in advance. Serve over lots of ice, as it is sweet especially if freshly made.

*Recipe contains alcohol. This can be substituted by red grape juice.

If there is one beverage present in every Jamaican home over Christmas and New Year’s it is “Sorrel.” This is not to be mistaken for the herb by the same name. The drink is a favourite at this time of year because it is made from hibiscus (otherwise called roselle or karkade), which starts to come into season in the Caribbean by about November. Fresh sorrel is grown in the gardens of many Jamaicans and is traditionally handpicked in huge batches by a group of women and children ahead of the holidays. The petals are set aside for this deliciously rich drink and excess petals are sometimes dried for later use.

[This recipe and story has been exclusively commissioned for FoodeMag dxb]

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