Hibiscus syrup is a sweet, tart herbal remedy with a brilliant red color and vibrant flavor. Hibiscus has a cooling energy, which makes it a particularly refreshing herb to use in the summertime. When you stir a few spoonfuls of the syrup into sparkling water, it makes a nice drink similar to raspberry shrub, which also has a sweet-sour intensity.
In this version, I add lemon, which helps preserve the syrup naturally, as well as coriander and bay leaf, which give the syrup subtle, herbal undertones.
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What is hibiscus syrup?
Hibiscus syrup is a sugar-sweetened herbal syrup made from hibiscus flowers. The flower comes from the hibiscus sabdariffa variety, which is also called roselle or Jamaican sorrel, and it is grown primarily for its medicinal and culinary value.
To make hibiscus syrup, you first prepare a strong herbal infusion and then blend that infusion with an equal part of sugar to make a syrup. Hibiscus's high vitamin C content gives the syrup a distinct tartness, while the flower's rich array of polyphenols lends a deep, rich red color.
How to use it
You can use hibiscus syrup to sweeten drinks or add it to cocktails. And you can also add it to marinades and vinaigrettes, where it lends both acidity and a touch of sweetness. Because its sugar is highly concentrated, a small amount can add a lot of flavor.
- Use it to flavor fermented drinks like water kefir, jun tea, or kombucha. You can swirl it in for the second ferment.
- Serve it with sparkling water poured over ice, or even add it to champagne or hard cider for a burst of flavor.
- Drizzle it over ice cream or sorbet.
- Blend it with vinegar and olive oil to make a vinaigrette.
Where to find organic herbs and spices
You can find many fresh herbs at your local grocery store; however, medicinal herbs can be harder to find locally. We recommend Starwest Botanicals because they stock a wide assortment of organic and ethically wildcrafted culinary and medicinal herbs.
Tips for making this recipe
Making an herbal syrup is a three-part process. The first step is to make an herbal infusion. Next, you'll strain the infusion. Lastly, you'll add enough sugar to the infusion to create a syrup. The sugar both gives the syrup its flavor, and also acts as a preservative.
- Choose dark red, organic dried hibiscus flowers. They tend to have the deepest flavor.
- The longer you allow the herbs to steep, the more robust the syrup's flavor will be. A general rule is to steep them until the infusion cools to room temperature or at least 20 minutes.
- Use fresh bay leaf, if you can find it. But dry bay leaf works well, too.
- Use sugar (or another caloric sweetener), as it's important for preserving the syrup.
Use honey instead. While unrefined cane sugar is a relatively mineral-rich sweetener and excellent for preserving this syrup, you can also use honey, too. Decrease the water to 1 ¾ cups and add 1 ½ cups honey. An herbal honey syrup typically lasts only about 3 months, so you'll need to use it more quickly than a sugar-based syrup.
If you prefer to completely avoid sugar, simply make this as an infusion and drink it within three days as you would a tea.
Make a straight hibiscus syrup by skipping the bay, lemon, and coriander. Keep in mind that, without the lemon, it may not last quite as long.
Blend hibiscus with other herbs like rose, hawthorn, cardamom, black pepper, or lemongrass.