How to make Caribbean sorrel drink for Christmas

28.11.21 | Recipe by Renz

The deep red color and warming flavor of this Caribbean sorrel drink is guaranteed to put you in a festive mood! This non-alcoholic favorite is made with tangy sorrel and gently spiced with cloves and cinnamon. This is my favorite drink for Christmas time.

A jug of Caribbean sorrel drink with two glasses of sorrel with ice.

Caribbean sorrel drink, usually just referred to as ‘sorrel’, is a favorite in Caribbean households right the way through from Christmas to the new year.

Growing up, as soon as glasses of it started appearing, I knew that it was nearly time for Christmas.

You might find, on the internet, a lot of "Jamaican Sorrel Drink recipe" but this is a beverage that is also just as popular in other Caribbean countries, Latin America, and African countries. It is not just a Jamaican drink.

This recipe is straightforward to make. The zesty flavor of the sorrel is sweetened with sugar, and warming cloves and cinnamon create a taste almost like a spiced cranberry lemonade!

If you feel like an alcoholic drink, you can also add a splash of rum - lots of people do this because it goes well with the spiced flavor.

Traditionally, sorrel would be left steeping for a long time to give the drink its signature flavor and crimson red color. However, I wanted to make a quick and easy version while preparing for a family Christmas, so I briefly boiled the ingredients, which meant it only needed to steep for an hour or so.

I’m excited to show you how to make this drink because it’s a Christmas tradition that my family and I treasure.

It’s a special drink that usually only comes out at this time of year, and it means that non-alcoholic drinkers can enjoy something more interesting than juice or soda when they’re having a gathering!

If you’re looking for more inspiration for non-alcoholic drinks for your holiday celebrations, try this fresh and flavorful festive drink


What is sorrel?

There are actually two kinds of sorrel, and you need to make sure you get the right one; otherwise, your drink won’t taste good!

If you think of the leafy green when you hear the word sorrel, this isn’t the one used for making this Caribbean red drink.

The kind you need for this recipe is actually hibiscus flowers, which also have common names such as Jamaican sorrel, agua de Jamaica, or Flor de Jamaica. Its scientific name is the Hibiscus Sabdariffa.

It looks quite similar to cranberry because of its bright red coloring. It has a sharp, almost acidic taste just like cranberry does.

Sorrel is available to buy either fresh or dried, and you might see it referred to as roselle, red sorrel, or even as Florida cranberry. You might even see it selling in tea form as hibiscus tea.

The plant is used in many Caribbean dishes because it adds a fresh, slightly acidic taste and deep color. If you’re interested in cooking more with it, this rich sorrel BBQ sauce is a great place to start! Then make some sorrel wings.

You can find dried flowers in a lot of Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian markets. It can also be found online. I especially love this Carib brand as I find that it gives the strongest flavor.

Health benefits of sorrel

As it pertains to using herbs in cooking, they not only were used for their amazing flavors but also important for their benefits as it relates to health. Here are a few important ones:

Studies have shown that sorrel is great for weight loss and is it helps you to digest food more effectively. It's also a great source of vitamins with it being high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

It is packed with antioxidants that help to keep your heart healthy and is also an anti-inflammatory. This roselle plant is not just easy to make but can be a great help to prevent diseases.

Two glasses of Caribbean sorrel drink with ice and boiled sorrel leaves

What is Caribbean sorrel drink?

You make Caribbean sorrel drinks by steeping the petals and warm spices in hot water to create a drink with a striking red color that tastes quite sharp and spicy.

Sorrel is served cold the majority of the time, so it’s nice and refreshing. It’s a great way to keep yourself hydrated and give yourself a boost when it’s been a long day of cooking and talking.

As with a lot of Caribbean recipes, how to make sorrel will differ slightly from region to region and household to household. I’ve given you my recipe here, some notes on variations based on other islands, and some ideas on things you can add to make it your own.

The beautiful red color of sorrel does mean that it can stain, so be careful not to get any on your favorite clothes!

Ingredient notes

  • Dried sorrel: The main ingredient for this Caribbean beverage can be found in Caribbean stores and Asian markets, or buy them online.
  • Cloves: Cloves have an intense, warm flavor, perfect for steeping. Buy them dried, and keep them in the cupboard for all sorts of recipes.
  • Cinnamon sticks: Cinnamon is sweet and woody and often used with cloves. Like cloves, they are dried and perfect for steeping.
  • Sugar: White sugar works best because it dissolves quickly and won’t darken the drink's color. Other alternatives would be maple syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, or simple syrup.
  • Mixed essence: A mix of vanilla, almond, and sometimes lemon or orange. This flavoring adds a sweet and fruity layer to your drink.

Ingredients for how to make sorrel

How to make sorrel

Begin by bringing a pan of water to a boil on medium heat.

Once the water has started to boil, place the dried leaves, cloves, and cinnamon in the pan. Then, allow it all to cook for 10 minutes.

Next, remove the pan from the heat and start the steeping process. Leave the boiled fruit to steep for at least an hour. The longer you let it steep, the stronger the flavor will be.

Sorrel flowers and spices in water for the steeping process

Once it has cooled to room temperature we are ready to make our drink.

Strain the liquid through a fine sieve to separate the liquid from the pulp. Then we will get ready to get it ready to drink.

The sorrel concentrate we just made now, has to be diluted and sweetened.

Start adding as much water as you think is needed. Add a few cups at a time, and add in your sugar.

Strained sorrel pulp to separate for  the sorrel juice

Give it a taste to see how strong the flavor is - if it’s too strong, you can add more cups of water to dilute it.

Continue to sweeten and dilute to your liking.

Serve chilled and over ice. It looks and smells great if you add some orange peel to the glass. Pair it with a slice of sponge cake or black cake.

Or use some to make deliciously boozy sorrel rum punch.

Preparation notes

Here are a few points to keep in mind when preparing this drink:

  • When steeping, be sure to cover the pan. Covering the pan will keep the heat in longer, allowing the flavors to come out more.
  • Once you’ve made the drink, don’t throw out the flowers! See my notes below on how to reuse the flowers.
  • If using fresh from the sorrel plant, make sure you wash the sorrel to get rid of any debris.


I mentioned that how you make sorrel varies from region to household. Here are some ideas to put your own spin on it.

  • If you want to add some extra flavor to your Caribbean sorrel drink, add 1 orange rind to the pan and boil it with the other ingredients.
  • You can also add about an ounce of fresh ginger root to the pot for extra fire in the initial boil! Some people also like to add ginger wine (Specifically Stone's ginger wine) to their sorrel at the end while they’re sweetening it. Start with about a 3/4 cup, then add more if you wish
  • Adding white rum to your sorrel drink turns it into a delicious cocktail. You can start with 1/2 cup of rum.
  • You can use fresh hibiscus rather than dried to make this recipe if you can get your hands on any! It is hard to find in the US. However, if you decide to use fresh sorrel, you will need to use double the amount because dried sorrel has a more concentrated flavor.
  • You can use additional spices. The Jamaican version of this recipe calls for the addition of a few allspice berries (also called pimento berries) to add an additional layer of flavor, along with some star anise.


Sorrel keeps well in the fridge. Place your mixture in glass bottles and refrigerate. It can be there for up to two weeks or so. Sometimes we start making in late November as we get ready for the Christmas season. You can easily make it ahead of time if you know you have guests coming over.

When storing, be sure to keep it in a sealed container for freshness. I either use empty rum bottles or mason jars. Just make sure they are sterilized.

Close up of sweetened sorrel juice with ice

After the drink is made, what do you do with the strained sorrel?

This doesn't have to be a one-use thing. Seeped sorrel petals can be used for other things.

  • You can reuse the flowers one more time and make a weakened drink. Add water to just about the same level of the flower mixture and give it another boil and seep. Note that this time it will not be as pungent as the first boil, but it will still have some flavor.
  • You can also use leftover sorrel flowers to make sorrel cake or even make jam. To make jam, add sugar and more liquid, then boil until you have a thick tasty jam.

So go ahead and make some of this delicious drink. Really it is one of the main beverages that are synonymous with the Caribbean and the festive season of Christmas.

Let me know what you think of this refreshing drink. Leave a review in the recipe card below and a comment.

Here are some other sorrel drink recipes:

Once you have made this delicious recipe this holiday season, use it to create some:

Interested in more Caribbean drinks? Here are some of my favorite punches: