Is there anything more festive than a red drink? I think not. And just because the holidays are over, that doesn’t mean we can’t keep looking for little celebratory moments.
During the annual tradition of Dry January, many people are eliminating or reducing their alcohol intake — perhaps as a “New Year, New You” resolution, or just to take a break from the boozy flow of December.
Luckily for all of us, the world of mocktails is blooming, with sophisticated zero-proof drinks appearing on menus, from high-end restaurants to burger joints. And even more luckily (and economically), they are easy to make at home.
Layering some non-alcoholic liquids and amping up the flavor with spices and seasonings is what mocktails are all about. They can be as simple as a combo of lemon soda and cranberry juice, or have all the bells, whistles and garnishes of a fancy drink.
One of my favorite bases for both cocktails and mocktails is hibiscus tea. Hibiscus is a flower, also known as Jamaica flower, flor de Jamaica, sorrel or roselle, and is available at Latin or Mexican markets, and online.
Hibiscus tea, or Agua de Jamaica, is a refreshing drink in itself and fantastic to have in the fridge. But don’t stop there. With some festive fruit garnishes and a few added ingredients, you can have a zingy sweet-tart mocktail.
If you prefer to buy pre-made hibiscus tea, go right ahead, but it’s not hard to make. Simply steep the hibiscus flowers with some sugar, oranges, fresh ginger, and cinnamon sticks until the liquid is bright red and imbued with flavor. The result can be compared to Red Zinger tea (which contains hibiscus leaves) or cranberry juice.
So, that’s our base, which already has a lot going on flavor-wise. Then you simply add a bit of honey, agave or simple syrup, as well as sparkling water and orange juice. You can lighten the mocktail’s flavor by increasing the amount of sparkling water. To add a little kick, try replacing the regular honey with hot honey, which is infused with chili peppers (you can find a number of them on the market). (Note: Using agave keeps the drink vegan; honey does not).
Hibiscus tea already has some sugar in it, so start by mixing in just 1 tablespoon added sweetener to the batch of Hibiscus Mocktail below, and then another tablespoon or two to taste. I have found that 2 tablespoons is the right level of sweet-tartness in this pitcher mocktail, when made with a Hibiscus tea base with 1/3 cup sugar added to the tea itself (as suggested in the recipe), and the sweetness of the orange juice.
Simple syrup is an easy way to add sweetness to any drinks, particularly those served chilled. Just mix 1 part sugar with 1 part water in a small pot, heat until the sugar dissolves and then chill. Store it the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and use it to sweeten anything from lemonade to iced tea to cocktails.
You can juice any oranges you have, from plain old juice oranges to clementines to blood oranges. Store-bought orange juice will work in a pinch.
This recipe makes more of the hibiscus tea base than you’ll need for one batch of mocktails. You can dilute the rest with additional chilled water, add sweetener to taste, and just have a lovely pitcher of cold hibiscus tea in the fridge. Or store the hibiscus base in the fridge for up to five days and make another batch of mocktails!
1 (2-ounce) bag hibiscus flowers (about 2 cups)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 orange, washed and cut into quarters
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, scrubbed or peeled, sliced and slightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 ½ cups chilled fresh orange juice
1 cup chilled sparkling water
1 cup chilled ginger beer
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, hot honey, agave or simple syrup
Sliced lemons or limes
Place the hibiscus flowers, 6 cups of water, the sugar, quartered orange, ginger and cinnamon sticks (if using) in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it steep for 30 minutes.
Strain out the solids, and chill for at least 6 hours, until very cold.
Fill a pitcher with a few cups of ice and the grapes, sliced orange, and lemon or lime. Add the orange juice, sparkling water, ginger beer, and agave or simple syrup. Pour in the hibiscus tea. Stir well to combine.
Serve in glasses with ice and some of the fruit from the pitcher.
Agua Fresca https://themom100.com/recipe/agua-fresca/
Cranberry Orange Shrubhttps://themom100.com/recipe/cranberry-orange-shrub/
Katie Workman writes regularly about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at https://themom100.com/. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.
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