Agua de Jamaica

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Isn’t it pretty? It’s pretty tasty, too. It’s agua de jamaica, which translates literally to Jamaican Water. It’s a type of agua fresca, and it’s one of my favorite things to drink on a warm summer day.

What is it made from? Oh, you know, hibiscus flowers. Oh, hush, it’s just like sun tea. You can get it at most health stores and some specialty tea shops.

First, you need to put the kettle on. Then get a funnel and a clean screw-cap wine bottle. Put 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 generous cup of dried hibiscus flowers in the bottle. Pour in enough hot water to half-fill the bottle, then put the cap on. Wrap the bottle in a towel and CAREFULLY shake for about a minute. This should dissolve all the sugar. Then top off the bottle with more hot water and put somewhere to sit for a few hours or overnight.

I have no pictures of this part because I did it last night and didn’t think to take them. Silly me!

Now, a warning. Hibiscus will STAIN HORRIBLY. It stains plastic, and cloth, and fingers, and tile, and lots of other stuff. Before you start this part, make sure you’re wearing an apron or a t-shirt you’re not fond of. Get out another wine bottle, or a 22 oz Rogue bottle, or, you know, something FANCY. Also source a chopstick and your funnel, and something to use as a filter. This? Is my secret weapon.
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It’s a clean, brand new, never worn child sized sock. Oh, sure, you could use a coffee filter or cheesecloth… I like the sock because it holds on well to the funnel and has lots of acreage that becomes more important later.

Put the sock (or sock-analog) over your funnel and set up your storage container.

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Start pouring, slowly. You want all that hibiscus O-U-T of the bottle. Wearing a white t-shirt is for advanced jamaica makers.

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Please note how the chopstick is deployed to get hibiscus out of the bottle. Pouring slowly helps. Once you get it all out, you get to squeeze!

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Stick a cork in the bottle, and toss it in the fridge. You’ve basically made a very thick syrup, and to drink it, you need to dilute with water, or club soda. Or vodka, if that’s your thing.

Dump the leftover hibiscus in the trash or compost, wipe up any spills, rinse out the sock and put it in the kitchen cupboard to confound your roommates (if you’re me). Then, also if you’re me, rinse out the wine bottle you used to steep the hibiscus, and put 1 ounce of grated fresh ginger and a cup of sugar in the funnel. Wash it into the wine bottle with hot water from the kettle, and let it steep, too. Now you’ve got jamaica and gingerade!

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2 Responses to Agua de Jamaica

  1. Clementina says:

    You are right–agua de jamaica stains like the dickens, but oh, how it tastes soooo good!

  2. Alice says:

    Was looking for ways to use my leftover jamaica flowers. I made the agua and have about 4 cups of flowers. Is it good for anything? They seem to pretty/useful to be thrown in the trash.

    Compost? I don’t know. I’ve seen them added to champagne, but I don’t drink that a lot. –Mary Sue

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