Edible Landscape – Sparkling with Liquid Sunshine
Brunch cocktails are a weakness, especially a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice and a dry sparkling wine. In the winter, I look forward to blood orange season and the fresh citrus from sunnier parts of the globe. In short, I look for inventive ways to add sunshine to my glass.
Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), commonly referred to as Red Sorrel, is in the hibiscus family. When brewed as a tea or a simple syrup, Roselle produces an exotic crimson hue and a taste similar to fresh cranberries. In New England, Roselle is grown as a decorative annual. For this purpose, it’s not the flowers but the calyx, the horned crimson pod also produced by the plant, that you’re after.
It’s easy to start Roselle from seed in a sunny bed after the last frost of spring and watch it sprout into tall (2-foot) stems mitted with three-pronged leaves and pinkish-yellow buds. The calyxes are ready to be picked in August or early fall, just after the buds have blossomed.
Air-dry the pods in a cool dry place with good air circulation and save them to make a rich ruby-red simple syrup. In mid-winter its flavors will remind you of the not so distant past, when only fans and popsicles could alleviate the heat.
½ ounce roselle simple syrup*
½ ounce blood orange juice
Top with dry sparkling wine
(I like Morphos American sparkling wine from Maine or prosecco)
In a flat champagne coupe, add Roselle simple syrup, blood orange juice and top with dry sparkling wine. Yields 1 cocktail.
* Boil 1 cup water in a small saucepot. Remove from heat and add 5 dried Roselle calyxes (or 1 tablespoon dried hibiscus leaves), cover and steep for 25 minutes. Remove and discard calyxes, then add 1 cup granulated sugar. Stir over low heat for 1 minute, cool and pour into a clean glass jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
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Photo by Chip Riegel