Cooking Like A Mexican

Hibiscus drinks!
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

Summer is here! That means mucho heat, lazy days at the beach, friends here mooching for their vacation and everybody guzzling drinks in our backyards or at pool side.

Recipes for refreshment drinks made from natural ingredients are much better that just buying drinks in a bottle, and the good thing is that we can prepare them without alcohol for kids and sneak in an extra kick for us adults.

Hibiscus is a flower that originated in Asia, then traveled to Africa and brought to this continent centuries ago. This plant found a perfect environment in Mexico. So perfect that nowadays it is considered one of the Mexican symbols.

Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae. It is quite large, containing several hundred species that are native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions. Member species are often noted for their showy flowers and used more for landscaping and also to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. It also known, even when not too common, as Rose Mallow. Here we call it jamaica flower and we use it to prepare infusions, soft refreshment drinks, and some chefs even like to cook it in some kinds of salsas.

“Give me five tacos and a glass of jamaica water”. Is a common phrase heard in every corner of Mexico and is probably the preferred soft drink by Mexicans.  It has become so popular that drinking it is a tradition.

Regardless of its name and its origin, the taste is definitely what counts. In Mexico, hibiscus flower is sold in bulk in the markets as a dried flower and the rest of the plant is rarely exploited. As I walked through the market one day I heard a wise old lady ask for darker jamaica flowers, then I learned that the darker they are the tastieter. Uses vary due to its natural pigments; add color to food, preparation of jams, sweets and preserves, soft drinks and table wines. In Europe, its leaves when fresh are prized for salads, while in ot­her countries are livestock feed. The seeds are used to produce fine oil, and as poultry feed, while the stems are used to extract high quality fibers to make ropes.

In fact, the use of the flower to make refreshment drinks is only a consequence of its great taste and freshness, but from the ancient cultures it was known to have important medicinal attributes, which have been established with scientific studies.

It is known to be a diuretic, cleansing the body of toxic substances. So imagine this after a night of heavy drinking! It is very effective in fighting cholesterol and obesity problems. It’s used as an adjunct in the treatment of certain cancers, for reducing blood pressure, kidney stones, etc. Besides being nutritious and digestive, it also contains a broad range of vitamins, minerals and other substances to help to maintain a healthy skin, and it has antioxidant properties.

With its slightly acidic taste, jamaica water is, when well prepared, definitely delicious and, for its price, available for all budgets. Imagine that in a glass of this delicious beverage there are half of your medications to remedy your ills and, last but not least, to quench your thirst.

The water of jamaica, jamaica flower water or hibiscus tea is an infusion made from calyces (sepals) of the rose of jamaica (hibiscus sabdariffa). This is an infusion that is taken both hot and cold worldwide. It tastes sour, like blueberry, often needing  sugar to sweeten. It contains Vitamin C trace elements, being used traditionally as a smooth remedy.

Dried hibiscus calyces have been available for a long time in health food stores in the United States, especially in California and other regions influenced by Mexican customs.

.No matter if from Africa, Asia or Jamaica, this plant came to Mexico to stay. Whether in tea or water in this hot season, take one for your health! And as the hibiscus is compared to captopril, you might be able to get drunk safely without worrying about your blood pressure. So here are some alcoholic drinks for you and salud! (To your health).

First of all, we have to prepare a basic syrup which can last for weeks in the fridge and is the base for soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, even ice cubes. This is very concentrated and will depend on your taste to know how much syrup you need to prepare one drink. Start using one ounce per half glass of water and go from there.

 

Jamaicapolitan

 

Ingredients:

Jamaica cold water.

2 limes (juice)

2 oz triple sec.

How to prepare:

Shake what your momma gave you and serve in a martini glass.

 

Red Mezcal

Ingredients:

Cold Jamaica water.

1 cinnamon stick.

2 oz mezcal.

Half a cup of lemon tea.

How to prepare:

Mix the Jamaica syrup with the lemon tea. Pour two ice cubes in a tall glass and the cinnamon stick. Serve the mezcal and top it off with the Jamaica Mix.

 

Flower Bomb

Ingredients:

Cold Jamaica water.

1 dark beer.

1 reposado tequila shot.

How to prepare:

Mix water and tequila. Serve in a glass complete with half of the beer. It may sound weird, but tastes great.

 

And at last but not least a Mexican Celebrity that I bet you will love.

 

Jamaica Margarita

For 1 serving:

2 ounces of tequila

1 ounce of lemon juice

1/2 ounce Cointreau

3 teaspoons sugar

Ice

1 ounce hibiscus syrup

 

Preparation: 5 minutes

Blend until stiff tequila with lime juice, Cointreau, sugar and ice. Serve in a glass previously rimmed with hibiscus syrup and candied with chili piquin. Put a hibiscus flower on top to make it pretty and start rolling your r’s.