Liqueur Love: What Is Sorel Liqueur?
When you think of liqueur, you probably think of the classics: orange liqueur, coffee liqueur, and amaretto liqueur, to name a few. But have you ever heard of sorrel liqueur?
Sorrel is a Caribbean drink made from the hibiscus plant. It’s packed with health benefits like high vitamin C and is a powerful antioxidant.
Now you can buy sorrel liqueur to put in your favorite drinks or to add to any recipes that require a fruit liqueur.
Keep reading to learn more about sorrel liqueur, how it’s made, and how to use this delicious, spiced drink.
What Is Sorrel?
Sorrel is a Caribbean drink with a tart, spiced taste. It’s made from the hibiscus plant Hibiscus sabdariffa, which has been used medicinally in West Africa for centuries.
Take note that this is not the same as the green plant (Rumex acetosa) that you might know as sorrel. This green plant has an intense lemon flavor and is often eaten in salads or used to make medicinal tea.
As a drink, Hibiscus sabdariffa (sorrel) is easily recognizable by its deep, ruby red color. To make the drink, the dried buds of the plant, called the calyx, are used. This is the bright red, cup-shaped part of the plant at the base of the flower.
Once the seeds are removed, the calyx can be used either fresh or dried in recipes like jam (and of course, sorrel). These days, you can buy dried sorrel at many Caribbean or Mexican grocery stores. You may also be able to find it at your local health food store.
How Is Sorrel Made?
While every Caribbean family has its own variation of sorrel, common ingredients that are used include ginger, cinnamon, pimentos, cloves, and rum.
To make sorrel, the hibiscus plant is boiled with spices and steeped for at least 45 minutes. For the strongest flavor, it can be refrigerated overnight to let all the flavors come out fully and meld together. Finally, the mixture is strained and served with ice and rum, if desired.
Sorrel is also served in Latin American countries like Mexico. Many Latin American, Caribbean, and African restaurants often serve their own version of sorrel or a cocktail with sorrel mixed into it.
History and Survival
Sorrel also invokes history and survival for many African diasporans.
Hibiscus was brought to the Caribbean during the colonization of this area in the 1600s. Due to the similar tropical climate of the Caribbean, the African diaspora was able to grow this plant during the colonial period and continued to do so after slavery was abolished in Barbados in 1934.
According to food historian Michael W. Twitty, having the same plant in the Caribbean became a symbol of hope and a way to reinforce an identity that you would have otherwise lost.
Riaz Phillips, who is the author of Belly Full: Caribbean Food in the UK, says that dried hibiscus flowers, like other pan-African foods, serve as a way to connect “our unified origins.” Whether it’s sorrel at a market in Brooklyn or in London, these flowers ultimately link back to the African continent.
This is why many say that sorrel is not just a drink, but a representation of culture, history, and survival.
Health Benefits of Sorrel
Sorrel is not only delicious, but it has numerous health benefits as well. These include its range of essential vitamins and minerals, like calcium and magnesium. It also has high levels of flavonoids, which help to prevent cancer.
Sorrel has also been found to reduce the risk of heart disease due to its cholesterol-lowering properties. Its high vitamin C content gives a great boost to the immune system, while its high vitamin A helps with poor eyesight.
Those with low iron will also be glad to hear that sorrel contains high levels of iron, helping to increase oxygen levels in your organs and boosting circulation in your body.
Sorrel also helps with memory, concentration, and is also great for anti-aging.
So if sorrel is made by brewing tea, how is sorrel liqueur made?
If you didn’t know, liquor and liqueur are actually different things. Liquors (otherwise known as spirits) are made by fermenting grains or other plants into a strong drink.
Even though sugar is used in the fermentation process, liquors generally don’t have a super sweet taste, even when flavors are added to them after distilling. Common liquors include vodka, tequila, rum, and whiskey.
On the other hand, a liqueur is a type of liquor, as it’s still a distilled spirit. However, liqueur differs because it’s sweetened and has different kinds of extracts, flavors, and oils added. You may have also heard of liqueurs, referred to as cordials.
Common liqueurs include elderflower liqueur and maraschino liqueur, and they’re often used in cocktails, baking, and even cooking.
How Sorrel Liqueur Is Made
Just like with regular sorrel, tea is first made from water and hibiscus. In the case of liqueur, like Sorel Liqueur by Jack from Brooklyn, Caribbean hibiscus, Brazillian cloves, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian cinnamon, and nutmeg are added to the tea.
When the tea is ready and it’s flavorful enough, it’s mixed with sugar and wheat grain spirit. Wheat grain spirit (be careful if you’re gluten-free) is a type of neutral-tasting alcohol that’s made by distilling fermented grain, so it’s the perfect backdrop to let the taste of the sorrel shine through.
Finally, the mixture is filtered and bottled. Filtration is important for alcohol as it removes any impurities and achieves a pure and clean taste. The more a spirit has been filtered, the higher its quality and the smoother its taste.
The taste of sorrel liqueur is both sweet and tart. If you’ve ever had hibiscus tea, you’ll recognize the tart flavor, which contrasts wonderfully with the deep, earthy flavors of the spices.
The flavors of the spices are also often described as similar to pie spice, so if you enjoy foods like pumpkin spice cake, you’re sure to love sorrel liqueur.
Sour and tart foods (think raspberry pie or any dessert with lemon) often need a good amount of sugar to balance them, and sometimes these flavors can get overpowering.
While sorrel does have sugar in it, the spices give the drink excellent depth and perfectly balance the sweetness and tartness of the other ingredients so that all the flavors work in harmony.
How To Store Sorrel Liqueur
As with other liqueurs and spirits, you want to store your sorrel liqueur in a cool and dark place. Sunlight actually causes chemical changes in your alcohol as well as changes in color.
You also want to keep your spirits at a consistent temperature. This is another reason to keep your liqueur away from the sunlight, as you want to avoid an increase in temperature.
However, you want to keep your liqueurs away from any other heat sources, including heaters or windowsills, as high temperatures can evaporate the alcohol.
Depending on the type of spirit, some bottles are better preserved in the fridge. Always check the label on your liqueur bottle to see the manufacturer’s storage recommendations and stick to these.
When storing your sorrel liqueur, make sure to close the bottle properly by fully twisting the cap. Also, make sure to store the bottle upright, especially if it’s sealed with a cork. Corks can actually react with the flavor of the alcohol and give it a bad taste.
How To Use Sorrel Liqueur
The best thing about sorrel liqueur is that you can serve it both hot and cold, making it a perfect addition to your favorite summer cocktails and baking or cooking recipes.
For any recipe that requires a fruit liqueur, why not try substituting sorrel liqueur instead? It’s guaranteed to add a spicy yet tangy kick to your favorite dessert while giving you a new, interesting flavor to try.
Be careful if you’re using any other liqueurs in your recipe that also have spices in them. Sorrel liqueur has quite strong pie spice notes already, so you don’t want to add too many different aromas and overpower your recipe.
Popular Cocktails With Sorrel Liqueur
Sorrel liqueur works very well with any cocktails that call for Pimento Dram, which is a simple liqueur made from allspice berries. Simply substitute the Dram for sorrel liqueur, adjusting the amounts to taste.
You can also use sorrel liqueur as a lovely, spicy substitute for maraschino liqueur in a Last Word cocktail, as it will nicely balance the sourness of the lime and the bitterness of the gin in this drink.
Some other popular cocktails you can make with sorrel liqueur include:
- Blood orange margaritas: Sorrel liqueur, tequila, agave nectar, blood orange, and lime juices
- Caribbean cosmo: Sorrel liqueur, citrus vodka, lime juice, Clément Créole Shrubb
Add Some Spice to Your Drinks With Sorrel Liqueur
Sorrel liqueur is a fantastic addition to add interesting, nuanced flavor to any drink.
Whether you’re a seasoned cocktail enthusiast or just looking to try something new, sorrel liqueur can be just what you’ve been looking for.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out more blog posts from our food and drink category.