Sorrel Drink is a tangy, spice-infused beverage that is often served at Christmas and New Year's in several parts of the Caribbean.
Keep reading to learn how to make sorrel drink from scratch!
There are some recipes that are so ingrained in our family traditions, we can sometimes take them for granted. This sorrel drink recipe is like that for me.
We don’t make a ton of Caribbean foods at home, simply because a lot of the classic recipes take a long time to make, or require ingredients that are difficult to find here in Canada.
But my mom has always tried to bring elements of Trinidadian cuisine into our holiday celebrations, with recipes like coconut “breakfast bun” cookies, or Caribbean Chelsea buns, and this sorrel drink recipe.
Growing up, this ruby-coloured beverage would show up around Christmastime and stick around straight through the New Year.
At first, I didn’t take much notice of it - preferring to drink my mom’s sparkling cranberry punch instead.
But eventually, I came to know sorrel drink as the nicer one of two Trinidadian beverages that my parents would have in the house during the holidays.
(The other drink being something called Mauby – a bitter drink made from special tree bark, which I have never liked!!!)
🤔 What is Sorrel Drink?
If you've never had this chilled Caribbean beverage before, you can think of sorrel drink as a Christmassy lemonade.
We make the drink by steeping the sepals of a specific hibiscus plant that we call sorrel and flavouring the mixture with warm spices.
The drink is tangy and is served cold, making it a refreshing alternative to the heavier winter drinks like hot cocoa or hot chocolate.
Note: We’ve always just called this “sorrel”, based on the Roselle hibiscus plant that it’s made from, but apparently, there is a leafy green called sorrel too.
The two plants are completely unrelated, so if you’re trying this recipe for the first time you’ll want to make sure you have the right ingredient before you get started!
📖 Recipe Variations
Like so many Caribbean recipes, including my beloved macaroni pie, there are many different variations of this drink.
Ginger, cinnamon, orange peel and cloves are popular additions, but I’ve also seen recipes that call for allspice, bay leaf and rum.
Some people also like to add rum or other alcohol to this drink, but we've always enjoyed it without booze at my house.
The recipe I'm sharing today belonged to my late grandmother, and of course, my mom has put her own spin on it throughout the years.
If you saw our spiced apple cider recipe, you know that we love to cook with star anise, and that flavour is key to our version of sorrel drink, too.
🍷 How to Make Sorrel Drink
Some sorrel recipes require you to steep the mixture for hours, or leave it overnight to develop the flavours.
We prefer to use a lot of spices and bring the mixture to a simmer, so that the mixture can become flavourful in a shorter period of time.
However, if you prefer a really strong brew, you can still leave the mixture in the fridge overnight to really intensify the flavours.
We use fresh sorrel for this recipe when it’s available (which isn’t often), but dried sorrel works equally well.
Since dried sorrel tends to be easier to find, I’ve based my recipe on that. You can find dried sorrel at Caribbean speciality stores or large grocery stores. Otherwise, you can buy sorrel online at Amazon.
If you do get your hands on fresh sorrel, just be sure to at least double the amount that you use. The dried version has a much stronger flavour (much like dried herbs).
How to Sweeten and Dilute the Drink
You will probably need to add a lot of sugar to balance out the acidity of the sorrel.
We never sweeten the whole pitcher. Instead, we leave the strained sorrel in the fridge and then everyone can adjust their glass with sugar and water to their preference.
I like to dilute mine a little bit, and add a teaspoon or two of sugar to my glass.
The last thing to keep in mind is that steeped sorrel is sometimes used as a natural pigment to dye fabric, meaning that this stuff will stain anything it touches.
Just something to keep in mind before you decide to make this while wearing a nice white sweater!
Have you tried sorrel before? Let me know in the comments!
🖨 Printable Recipe
Caribbean Sorrel Drink
- 2 cups dried sorrel, (roselle/hibiscus sabdariffa)
- 10 cups water
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise, whole
- 2 pieces orange peel, fresh (2-3 inches)
- 2 teaspoon white sugar, or more (to taste)
- Combine all ingredients, except the sugar, in a large pot.
- Gently simmer for about 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours to infuse.
- Strain the mixture into a glass pitcher. Set in fridge to chill.
- When ready to serve, sweeten and/or dilute the mixture to your preference. Serve over ice.
- Store unused portion in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It is normal to see some sediment in the bottle after a few days.
Please read the blog post for detailed tips and explanations.
Nutrition Disclaimer: this nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed.
i love it
Gyal it's one of the best drinks 😍 that and groseille
I LOVE sorrel, but I haven't had groseille before! What is it?
Hi! How much cloves would you recommend?
Hi Evelyn, for this quantity I'd add 4 whole cloves and see if you like the flavour. If you want it stronger, go up to 6 and try it again. You can always add a few more, but starting with too many might overpower the drink. I hope that helps!
I had Sorrel a few Years ago at Christmas Dinner with a friend & her parents …they are from Trinidad…her Mom had a pitcher of Simple syrup out beside the pitcher of Sorrel…I really enjoyed it.
I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it! That's a smart way to serve it, with simple syrup on the side. Thanks for sharing that tip!
My friend has tried to do this with dried petals but keeps getting gelatinous lumps in her drink. What is she doing wrong?
Hi Zoe, that interesting... I'm not entirely sure what could be causing that. You do have to strain the mixture, but I don't know what would be causing "gelatinous lumps" in the liquid. Infusing sorrel into water usually results in a fairly thin liquid, and you're just straining the spices and petals out. Do you know if the recipe she's following is similar to mine? Maybe she's adding something else that could cause that texture? It's difficult for me to say without knowing what she's doing exactly. Sorry!
Hi again Zoe, I just had a thought! A fellow food blogger makes jam from sorrel and I remember her talking about the natural pectin in the seeds. I just took a look at her blog post to check, and she says "the seed capsule when boiled creates a natural pectin or thickener". The dried sorrel that I use does not contain the seed capsule, but maybe the kind your friend uses does? That would explain "the lumps. Here's the blog post for the jam in case it's helpful: https://www.oliveandmango.com/sorrel-jam-a-gorgeous-spread-with-a-unique-flavour/
I am not from Trinidad, but still from the Caribbean (Saint Lucia). My mother would make the sorrel, as per your recipe, but would ADD RICE (I never knew what amount) after steeping for about 8 - 12 hours, so that the sorrel drink would ferment in a large glass goblet for about one week. What would transpire is that the sorrel drink would be fizzy!! She also added pure brown sugar AFTER the fermentation period (to taste), then refrigerate the drink. Unfortunately, I never wrote down quantities/amounts of my mother's recipe - she usually just "put" or "added" "potluck" quantities as was her custom. But, her sorrel always turned out great - when served with plenty ice!! I make my own sorrel drink now, but minus the rice fermentation - I'm too scared to spoil a good thing!!
Hi Lyn, thanks for sharing your story! That's so interesting!! I've never heard of anyone doing that, but I'd love to try it one day. Fizzy fermented sorrel sounds really delicious!
I'm glad that you enjoyed it!
It's so nice of you to share your family receipes with us all. This isn't a drink I've ever heard of in the UK before but today i found "Carib Shandy - Sorrel Oseille" (low alcholo sorrel with hops) in a UK Tesco. It is lovely!
Now i've found your website i'm looking forward to trying a non- alcohol version if I can find all the ingredients here to make it.
Like the sound of Carribean Chelsea Buns too so I'm off to investigate your other pages.
Hi Kate, thank you for your kind comment! I hope you can find the ingredients to make the sorrel - it's quite tasty. Feel free to let me know if there are any recipes that you are looking for. All the best!