This post, as all of my posts are it turns out, a retelling of the dark and twisty path I took to get to the featured final product. So here goes, the story of the drawn-out birth and lightning-fast demise of Hibiscus-Tequila cocktails.
I brought back a big bag of dried hibiscus flowers (flor de Jamaica) from San Antonio, one of many kind gifts from Lara and Anthony. I had been staring at the bag for a month trying to think of a fitting use for the flowers. Sure, I could have made plain tea or karkade, but it would be missing something. It would be missing alcohol.
Food and Wine came to the rescue with a recipe for Hibiscus-Tequila cocktails from Jacques Pepin. And so the preparations began. I couldn’t just brew up some half assed version of Jacques Pepin's vision. I needed a proper occasion and I needed the proper ingredients. The proper occasion turned out to be easy – it was Thursday. That was it. That was the occasion. AA, here I come.
As for the ingredients -- I got quite a few limes in my last Boston Organics box and at least half of them had yet to become desiccated and sad little versions of themselves in the bottom of my gapingly empty fridge. So I had the lime juice taken care of. It was organic and aged! Aging is good for lime juice, right? Like balsamic? Yeah, no, but that's ok. It did the trick.
On to the tequila. I have half a bottle of Cuervo Gold sitting up on my liquor shelf -- it has been there ever since I can remember. Since I am not in college and not a member of a fraternity, I decided to skip the Cuervo and get something a little more befitting the adult that I am. [That last part is a joke.] Turns out that the utterly shady liquor store (are they all shady?) near my house doesn’t have any decent tequila - no Don Julio, no Patron. Bugger. I got a bottle of Sauza and was pleasantly surprised. It has a lot more flavor than Cuervo (in that it doesn’t taste like gasoline) but lacks the smoothness of Don Julio. Good enough.
The hot sauce (how can you not love a drink that has hot sauce in it?) I used was some that I brought back from my last trip to the BVI. It’s not the best hot sauce in the world but it has sentimental value.
I was, at last, all set to make the cocktails. I steeped the hibiscus flowers in boiling water for far less time than I was instructed to (Come on. How long am I supposed to wait for a drink?). The flowers turned into purple baby octopi, a little rubbery and somewhat Halloween-looking.
And yes, I did taste one. Why? I don’t know. They had released all their flavor to the water, so my curiosity went unrewarded. The hibiscus tea was a beautiful deep maroon color and painfully tart. I added sugar purely out of fear of having the enamel stripped off my teeth without it. I was careful not to add too much (I actually added half the recipe-stipulated amount) so as not to go in the gag reflex-inducing candy drink direction.
The drink was light, tart, not too boozy yet certainly not plain juice – although it did go down like juice. Lisa and I went through a whole pitcher of it. Yep, just us. Aside from the fact that we are aspiring alcoholics, the drink really was quite good. I will be less shy with the hot sauce next time. It made the drink absolutely addictive. Yeah it was the hot sauce that did it and not the tequila. Really.
Hibiscus-Tequila Cocktails, my futzed-with version
Food and Wine, July 2006
2½ cups water
½ cup dried hibiscus flowers
3 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
½ cup tequila (or to, uh, taste)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
4 dashes of your favorite (for whatever reason) hot sauce
1) Bring the water to a boil. Add the hibiscus flowers and boil for one minute. Let infuse for as long as you can stand it – ideally about 15 minutes but I was perfectly happy with the result after 7. Strain the tea into a bowl and stir in the sugar till dissolved. Chill the tea thoroughly – this I did in the freezer due to the aforementioned impatience.
2) Stir in the tequila, lime juice, and hot sauce. Pour over ice and… bottoms up.
P.S. Pardon the not-so-great picture of the cocktail itself. I may have been drinking at the time...