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A Christmas Tradition: How to Make Jamaican Sorrel

“Every December, I host a tree-trimming party. I serve chili with cornbread and lots of good wine. It’s a wonderful party, and it shows how much adults like to play.” Maya Angelou

Sorrel is the favourite festive Christmas drink of Jamaica! Like fine winemaking, “sorrel-making” is an established activity – the roots of which go back generations. Making sorrel especially during the Christmas season is a tradition practiced worldwide. Gifting bottled sorrel is also tradition. The concept of pouring this sweet, spiced, home made beverage from a bottle, is like pouring fine red wine. It’s that good!

A beverage deep red in colour with a unique taste enhanced by pungent herbs, is made from the fruit petals of the sorrel plant – also known as hibiscus – harvested year round in Jamaica. After the plant’s petals fall off, what’s left are the sepals (fruit). As the fruit matures, they become enlarged, fleshy, and bright red.

To begin making sorrel, you must first steep the petals with grated ginger in boiled hot water. Once the liquid cools, it gets refrigerated for 24 hours before it is strained through a muslin cloth, or a sieve. This is a traditional method. Add white rum, and sugar to sweeten.

The more contemporary method of making sorrel includes mixing port wine (or sherry) together with spices such as pimento, cloves, and even orange peel. Many texts have been written outlining the process but here’s a digestible place to start. It’s true that with making this drink, the ingredients must be adjusted to achieve your desired taste. For each house I’ll visit this holiday season with sorrel made and bottled to go, each drink will have a uniqueness about them based on what ingredients were used. To be fair to the younger children, you can also make this beverage alcohol free.


I cook the way my mom unknowingly inspired my imagination. There was always something delicious on the stove. I experienced the different smells and uses of fresh herbs, and spices, just by observing – or as my mom called it, by “being nosey.” In my household, sorrel was made using five simple ingredients: fresh sorrel petals; grated ginger; lime juice and brown sugar. Some nice Jamaican rum was also added to the mix.

The method used to “draw” out the flavour of the sorrel petals was traditional – using boiling hot water to draw out the flavour of the sorrel petals. “Draw” is a word used in a Jamaican’s kitchen to explain the process to extract flavour. The next step as previously mentioned, is to allow the mixture to cool before it is refrigerated for 24 hours. The more sorrel petals you use, the stronger the flavor of the drink. If you’re not able to buy fresh sorrel (it goes fast this time of year), the dried packaged sorrel will yield just as strong a flavour. On occasion, one or two pimento seeds are bottled with the final drink.


Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a species of hibiscus native to West Africa. In the Caribbean, sorrel drink is made from sepals of the roselle. In Mexico, ‘agua de Flor de Jamaica’ (water flavored with roselle) frequently called “agua de Jamaica” is most often homemade and served chilled.  Hibiscus tea is a herbal tea made as an infusion from crimson or sepal of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. It is consumed both hot and cold.

I like to bring to a boil the sorrel and ginger as opposed to pouring the already boiled water on these ingredients as you would to steep tea. I love the warming smell of the sorrel petals, ginger, and warm spices as they come to a boil.

Cheers! Enjoy the recipe for this signature sip with an aromatic twist.

Jamaican Sorrel

  • Servings: 10 - 12 cups
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print


  • 8 cups sorrel petals (fresh or dry)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated ginger
  • Skin of 1 small orange
  • 6 pimento seeds (allspice berries)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 cups water
  • Brown sugar to sweeten
  • A splash of rum (or as desired to taste)


  • If using fresh sorrel you must first thoroughly wash it. Place the sorrel, ginger, orange skin, pimento seeds, cloves, cinnamon and water in a large pot and bring to a boil on medium heat. Remove from heat. Remove the orange skin. Cover and let cool. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Remove the steeped liquid from the refrigerator. Strain through a muslin cloth or a sieve into another large container. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Sweeten to taste with the sugar. Slowly stir in the rum, tasting as you go to achieve your desired flavour. Serve chilled, or over ice.
Tips: Substitute rum with port wine. Sherry can be used as well. It’s a great idea to make this drink a day or two in advance of serving it. Giving it time to sit allows the true flavours to really blend.

You might also like Canadian Hot Apple Cider. Click HERE to get the recipe for this most beloved holiday beverage spiced with cinnamon, pimento and orange peel. It’s a perfect drink to cozy up with.

© Photography by Sabine Alphonsine.

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Jamaican Food Words & Phrases: Fruits & Veggies Edition

An island rich in heritage is, “Jamaica, Land We Love.” “The sun shineth, the land is green and the people are strong and creative” symbolizes the meaning of the country’s flag. Black depicts the strength and creativity of the people; Gold is the natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and green represents hope and agricultural resources.

The history of Jamaica is a rich and vibrant one. The history of Jamaica inspires its people to move forward as a nation. Jamaica’s history speaks to experiences of hardships and prosperity and the growth and determination of a people. The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many One People,’ based on the population’s multiracial roots.

Photo credit: Eartha Lowe FUN FACT! Picture above taken during a tour in Nine Mile, Jamaica, Bob Marley Mausoleum. It is said this is the very spot that the legend would cook.


To cook brilliant Jamaican food, you need to “season” your food by combining the best ingredients. Synonymous with Jamaican style cooking, are whole ingredients like the fiery scotch bonnet pepper, allspice (also known as pimento), peppercorn, scallion, clove, cinnamon, thyme, garlic, ginger, lime, cane sugar, fresh coconut milk, nutmeg and bay leaf. The scotch bonnet pepper ranges in colours from yellow to orange to red and is considered the leading hot pepper in Jamaica. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon the use of two of these popularly used ingredients: scotch bonnet pepper and allspice.

Many cuisines have standby spice mixtures that are added to many foods as they cook. The lure of the “exotic” cuisine of the Caribbean in general, and Jamaica in particular, has popularized products from the region as more home cooks begin experimenting with some of the island’s popular dishes. The explosion of ingredients available internationally, including healthy vegan choices, have brought us recipes – both traditional and contrived. This article takes a look at some green food choices that are part of the Jamaican cuisine, how to say them in Patois, and how to use them in a sentence as found in the Jamaican Patios and Slang Dictionary.

Pictured above: Green Plantain, Ginger, Thyme, Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Onion, Garlic, Lime, Lemon, Mint. In case you missed it, get the recipe for a classic Green Plantain Vegetable Soup. It’s a tasty soup to cozy up with! Click HERE for link to recipe.

Although the official written and spoken language of Jamaica is Standard English, many Jamaicans also speak Patois which is a separate dialect/language. Jamaican Patois (also known as “Patwa”, “Patwah” or “Jamaican Creole”) is the language that is used by most Jamaicans in casual everyday conversations while Standard English is normally reserved for professional environments.

It is quite difficult to acquire the accent of a Jamaican, unless you’ve lived in Jamaica for many years but at York University in Canada, their Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics offer an “Introduction to Jamaican Creole” as a course. Jamaican Patois has been gaining ground as a literary language for almost a hundred years.



English Translation: Breadfruit
The breadfruit (pictured above) is a large green fruit, usually about 10 inches in diameter, with a pebbly green skin and sponge-like flesh. Breadfruits are not edible until they are cooked and they can be used in place of any starchy vegetable, rice or pasta. Breadfruit is popularly served roasted via wood fire with Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Saltfish. Breadfruit is picked and eaten before it ripens and can also be served fried once roasted.
Example Sentences
Patois: Fry breshi taste good.
English: Fried breadfruit tastes delicious.


English Translation: Chayote
“Chuo-cho” as it’s referred to in Jamaican Patois is “Chayote” squash. Chayote is a light, almost lime-green tropical fruit defined by its unique pear-like shape, and its deep linear indentations that run vertically along its thin skin that meet at its flower end. Chayote squash can be eaten both raw and cooked and at various stages of maturity. In its cooked form Chayote tastes like a cross between potato and cucumber; the taste is very bland. Chayote is served in many Jamaican soup dishes.
Example Sentences
Patois: Mi waah sum chuo-cho fi put inna mi soup.
English: I want some chayotes to put in my soup. (see chayote soup)


English Translation: Callaloo
“ilaloo” is a Rasta slang for “Callaloo”, a highly popular Caribbean dish which originated from West Africa. This leafy, spinach-like vegetable is typically prepared as one would prepare swiss chard or collard greens.
Example Sentences
Patois: Mi ago cook ilallo fi brekfast.
English: I am going to cook callaloo for breakfast.

Pictured above: Callaloo, Sweet Potato, Pear, Okra, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Bok Choy, Garlic, Red Onion

Pap chow

English Translation: Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a type of Chinese cabbage. A popular way to cook this vegetable Jamaican style is with salted codfish.
Example Sentences
Patois: Mi mada always deh force mi fi nyam pap chow and the other green vegetable dem.
English: My mother always force me to eat bok choy and the other green vegetables.


English Translation: Avocado
Optimally ripe avocados are typically known for their silky, creamy texture and rich flavours that could be described as “nutty” or “nut-like.” In Jamaica, this fruit is popularly called “pear.” Pear can be eaten as a complement to Ackee, and as a spread on hard dough bread, instead of butter. Pear however, is not only a substitute for meat or for making a quick and tasty sandwich or snack – it is also used to make tasty dips and desserts.
Example Sentences
Patois: Gimmie a slice a pear.
English: Give me a slice of avocado.

– – See more Jamaican Food Words & Phrases along with recipes, published in every issue of Cooking Green Goodness Magazine. One Love.

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