They say once you notice a trend it’s already over. Which I hope is not the case, in the case of hibiscus-infused cocktails—though at first I had serious doubts. I saw hibiscus twice in two weeks on different bar menus, and groaned—still scarred by the year of the pomegranate. Fully dreading another food craze about to take over the world: hibiscus cupcakes, with bacon sprinkles! Hibiscus infused ganache for your cannabis brownies!
I’d have never ordered a drink as floofy as a Hibiscus Sour without some serious prodding from Max the bartender at Maggie’s on the Prom in Seaside—a restaurant I found only because I was walking on said Prom. It was there, and it was beckoning, with its outdoor tables overlooking the beach.
Gin, Chambord, fresh lemon juice and house-made lavender honey syrup. Sure, it sounded good, but so many specialty cocktails are syrupy. And this one had syrup in it.
“It’s the first sunny day of spring,” Max said. “Trust me.”
I resisted: I’m a dedicated drinker of bourbon, I said, and suspicious of any cocktail featuring more than three ingredients. But eventually, he convinced me. Max was handsome, and persistent—as so many bartenders are. He was also correct: it was the first sunny day of spring. A time when gin is virtually irresistible.
It was the deep shock of magenta, though, that really won my heart. And with every sip, that cocktail got better. The lavender! The honey! Just enough to balance the tart burst of lemon. The floral taste and scent perfectly complemented the gin, and I could’ve stayed in that chair, drinking Hibiscus Sours all afternoon. I would’ve, had I brought more than $20 when I left for my walk.
And since then, I’ll admit I’ve developed a little obsession. Though I’m far too lazy a bartender to infuse anything. Luckily, a quick internet search led me to hibiscus tea cocktails. A drink easy enough even I, lifetime fan of the three-ingredient drink, could manage to make.
Also, it’s fun to have an alternative to margaritas or sangria—my usual summer go-to, when hanging out with friends in the backyard or at the beach. This pitcher cocktail—gorgeous, refreshing, easy—has already been the hit of the season. One note, though: you do have to plan ahead a bit. The recipe is easy, but takes a couple hours to chill.
Combine a cup of sugar in three cups water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil until the sugar is dissolved, then remove the pan from the heat, and add six hibiscus tea bags. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes, then take out the tea bags, return the pan to the heat, and cook, until the liquid reduces by half. Chill it for another hour, and add it to a pitcher along with a cup of orange juice, a cup of tequila and half a cup of lime juice. Throw in a sliced lime, a sliced orange, and a bunch of fresh raspberries. Let it chill for another hour, then serve your cocktail over ice, topped with club soda.
Finally, get ready to be very, very popular.