Where to Buy: Roselle hibiscus flowers can be found at tea shops, in Asian, Caribbean, Latin and health food markets, and online. African Blue Basil leaves can be found in home gardens or gardening shops.
- 1 gallon water
- 1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) dried roselle hibiscus flowers, cut or whole, or 1 cup fresh roselle flowers
- 6 whole allspice, folded in parchment paper and gently crushed by tapping with a heavy bottle or knife handle
- 5 whole cloves
- 3 green cardamom pods, folded in parchment paper and gently crushed by tapping with a heavy bottle or knife handle
- 1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds
- 1 whole star anise, broken, or 11 whole fennel seeds
- One (1/2-inch) cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
- Fresh raw cane juice, turbinado raw sugar or agave, optional, to taste
- Fresh mint sprigs, preferably mojito or fresh basil leaves, preferably African Blue Basil or Thai, to serve (optional)
In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to a vigorous boil. Add the hibiscus flowers, allspice, cloves, cardamom pods and seeds, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns, coriander and pepper flakes. Stir and bring back to a rolling boil for 15 minutes. The liquid will reduce a bit.
Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for at least 15 and up to 30 minutes. The longer the drink steeps, the deeper red and more flavorful it will become. Stir well and strain the drink through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-gallon pitcher.
While the drink is still warm, add fresh raw cane juice, turbinado raw sugar or agave, if using, to taste, stirring until it is well blended or dissolved. (The amount of sweetener will vary depending on the type and your taste; Start with a little and taste until it’s to your liking.)
Refrigerate until well chilled, if serving cold, at least 1 hour. Stir well before serving, and pour into ice-filled Mason jars or glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs, basil or African Blue Basil, if using. The drink also can be served hot, if preferred.
From herbalist Sunyatta Amen, owner of Calabash Tea & Tonic in Washington, D.C.