Naturally sweet, slightly floral, and wildly tart, hibiscus has become a hit on cocktail menus this spring. Bartenders love hibiscus because of its versatility and, most often, they use the calyx (which is the term for the sepals that protect buds and petals) of the flower to transform a variety of cocktails. A little botany 101: In most plants, the calyx is green; but in hibiscus, it’s a deep ruby red, which brightens up cocktails, giving them a hot-pink hue without any artificial dyes.
Flavor-wise, hibiscus can add tartness to a margarita, play well with mint or rosemary in an herbaceous gin cocktail, or, you can use hibiscus bitters to put a modern twist on an old fashioned, says Daisy Clark, bar manager of Hearth and Hill in Park City, Utah. It’s more layered than cranberry juice and more tart than most citruses.
Along with yuzu (a knobby fruit that’s tart and bright), Vitamin C-packed hibiscus landed on Whole Foods’ list of foods that are trending in 2022, with the sweet and tart profile making for the perfect flavor bomb in cocktails.
Ahead, a line up of hibiscus cocktail products you can buy, plus tips and tricks for achieving balance with this trending ingredient. Bartenders also share a few of their favorite hibiscus-centric cocktails you can make at home.
How to Add Hibiscus Into Your Cocktails
From adding a hibiscus liqueur to your bar cart to steeping hibiscus flowers for a homemade syrup, there are creative ways to introduce the flower to your cocktails. Here are a few fool-proof building blocks to help you perfect at-home hibiscus cocktails.
1. Sorel Liqueur
While delicious, hibiscus is notoriously challenging as a single note, says Sorel’s founder Jackie Summers. “It’s more tart than most citrus fruits, and the way most people manage the acidity is by adding tons of sugar.” Sorel Liqueur, though, takes a different approach. It allows hibiscus to shine as part of an ensemble cast. There are the fruity, floral notes of hibiscus; bright pungency of cloves; warmth of cinnamon; and woody backbone of nutmeg. “This allows Sorel to highlight the notes of any base spirit,” he says. “You can bring out the floral notes in gin, the fruity tones of agaves, or the dulcet vanilla and caramel notes of whisky and rum.”
2. Dashfire Hibiscus Bitters
Known as the spice rack of the bar, bitters can infuse cocktails with botanicals. Just note a little goes a long way. This hibiscus bitters from Dashfire is tart and floral (but not in a perfumey way). Just a drop or two can add depth to classic cocktails like margaritas or the Jack Rose, a cocktail Ernest Hemingway famously wrote about that’s made with applejack, grenadine, and lemon or lime juice.
3. Raft Hibiscus Lavender Syrup
With sour hibiscus and bittersweet lavender, this nicely balanced syrup doubles down on flower power. It can be paired with vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and mezcal cocktails—or added to sparkling wines or seltzers. Add 1 tablespoon of syrup to a 4- to 5-ounce cocktail.
4. DIY Hibiscus Syrup
You can also create your own hibiscus syrup to keep on hand for cocktails. To do so, steep dried hibiscus in hot water then add in any other components you’d like orange peel, cinnamon, and allspice, says Chiyo Takemoto, beverage developer for West 32 Soju. Then, sweeten it to your liking with monk fruit or honey, he says.
To prove its versatility, these bartender-approved hibiscus cocktail recipes use everything from tequila to whiskey to soju as their bases.
1. Favorite Floral
“My favorite way to use it would be in a syrup,” says Christopher Norton, general manager of Reynard Social at Thompson Denver in Colorado. “With this approach I can tame and tailor its notes to work on a range of cocktail types.” His riff on a margarita uses hibiscus agave syrup and a dash of pineapple juice.
- 2 oz rested tequila
- 0.5 oz hibiscus agave syrup (2 parts agave; 1 part hibiscus flower steeped in water)
- 0.75 oz lime juice
- 0.25 oz pineapple juice
- Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.
- Strain and pour over a rocks glass with ice.
- Optional: Garnish with a hibiscus flower and pineapple frond.
2. Sorel Trinidad Sour
Typically, a Trinidad Sour calls for Angostura bitters. But in this twist, Eddie L. Avilla III of The Fishery in San Diego, uses Sorel Liqueur as a base.
- 1.5 oz Sorel Liqueur
- 0.5 oz Uncle Nearest 1884
- 0.75 oz orgeat
- 0.75 oz lemon juice
- Add ingredients to a cocktail tin with ice and shake for 5 seconds.
- Double strain into a martini glass.
- Express an orange peel, twist it along the glass, and drape it on the edge.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Served in a teacup, this vodka cocktail courtesy of Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois is topped with champagne and is perfect for a Mother’s Day brunch.
- 2 oz vodka
- 0.5 oz hibiscus syrup
- 0.5 oz lemon juice
- Top with champagne
- In a mixing glass with ice, mix vodka, hibiscus syrup, and lemon juice.
- Pour in a tea cup and top with champagne
4. Sorrel in Hausa
A grain-neutral spirit with an element of sweetness, soju is a low-proof “Korean vodka.” In this cocktail created by West 32 Soju, the spirit is mixed with Sorel and gets a mango-chili salt rim.
- 2 oz West 32 Soy
- 2 oz Sorel Liqueur
- 0.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
- Optional: mango puree
- Optional: chili salt
- Add soju, Sorel Liqueur, and lime juice to a cocktail glass with ice and shake.
- Optional: Create a rim that’s dipped in mango puree and rolled in chili salt
- Pour cocktail over crushed ice.
5. The Peacock
In New Orleans, Kimpton Hotel Fontenot’s Peacock Room serves a bright pink El Pavo Real and the hibiscus syrup brings tart tannins and subtle floral notes to the cocktail, says Jordan Deis, bar supervisor.
- 2 oz white tequila
- 7g Ancho Kings
- 0.75 lime juice
- 0.75 oz hibiscus syrup (the Peacock Room uses a housemade hibiscus and pomegranate syrup)
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- Add ingredients to a cocktail tin with ice and shake.
- Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass.
- Garnish with an edible flower.
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