Use Dried Hibiscus For Vibrant Cocktails

If you've been getting into making cocktails at home or have always been interested in setting up a home bar, you can always add creative ingredients to spruce up your drink to the next level. If you're a fan of Starbucks' hibiscus refresher or any floral drink, dried hibiscus tea can seriously bring your cocktail a deep tropical aroma and a beautiful pink color.

Although dried hibiscus appears to be flower petals, it actually comes from the calyx of the hibiscus — the outermost part of the flower — rather than the flower itself. It has a tart berry flavor to it, similar to raspberry, which is more sour than it is sweet. Dried hibiscus usually comes in a deep magenta or even brown color but once bloomed in a solvent, it turns the liquid into a gorgeous pink or red. Depending on how much hibiscus you add, you can determine the color of your drink, as well as how floral it tastes. All cocktails that pair well with tea or fruit will probably taste even better with hibiscus.

Ways to add dried hibiscus to your cocktails

If you want to incorporate hibiscus into your cocktails, there are several ways to do it. Add crushed hibiscus leaves as garnish, achieving the look of tiny petals atop a foamy bed of egg white. Sprinkling a tiny bit will go a long way, leaving behind spots of pink in your drink. Another way to elevate your cocktail is to put hibiscus in your ice. For any drink you enjoy on the rocks, a floral ice cube or large ice sphere will surely give the drink an extra bit of pizzazz. 

There are a number of different methods for making designer ice at home: You could freeze hibiscus tea to produce a pink ice cube or simply drop the leaves into the ice mold with water to give the appearance of suspended hibiscus leaves in your drink. If you want to take advantage of the fruity and sour flavor of the tea leaves, you can go the extra mile and make a tea base or a hibiscus syrup for your cocktail. This would entail making a simple syrup with sugar, water, dried hibiscus leaves, and even adding cinnamon and clove for deeper flavors. 

Why does dried hibiscus work?

Hibiscus can work as both a zesty additive and as a substitute for several key ingredients in many cocktails. Due to its raspberry and pomegranate flavor, it could potentially replace grenadine or raspberry syrup in recipes that call for it. Since dried hibiscus leaves are meant for tea, they can also be used to make a base for tea-infused cocktails. A more highly concentrated tea would be great so that you don't have too much liquid in your cocktail — unless you prefer something like a hot toddy.

Two classic cocktail recipes with grenadine or raspberry syrup that would taste just as good with hibiscus are the Clover Club and Pink Lady, both gin-based drinks with a signature pink glow. Since gin is already flavored with juniper berries, its floral profile melds seamlessly with hibiscus. People who prefer less fruity notes can opt for hibiscus syrup in place of the sweeter grenadine or raspberry syrups. 

Adding hibiscus to tropical or citrus-forward cocktails also brings the drink a more complex, floral aroma. Margaritas, piña coladas, or anything with pineapple or citrus will greatly benefit from a splash of tart, herbaceous hibiscus syrup. While hibiscus seems like a sophisticated addition made for a single-serving drink, adding generous amounts of it to pitchers of a rosé sangria will give your party the spring flair it needs. Add in a couple of sliced strawberries and oranges for a truly marvelous bowl of punch.

Where to find dried hibiscus

Dried hibiscus should be available in the tea section of your local grocery store, although they might come in individual sachets for single-serving tea. To buy dried hibiscus for your cocktail needs, be it for decorative ice or hibiscus-infused sumac syrup, you might need to look for packages sold in bulk. Dried hibiscus tea is available for purchase online from Amazon, Walmart, or independent tea vendors on iHerb.

While hibiscus teas resemble regular tea leaves in appearance and texture, dried hibiscus flowers are usually entire bulbs that have kept the beautiful shape of the hibiscus blossom. If you want hibiscus flowers, you can search for products that are labeled as such, which come either unsweetened or sweetened (or candied). 

Trader Joe's offers a seasonal sweetened hibiscus flower product that is reminiscent of dried fruit candy. Although this snack isn't suitable for making hibiscus syrup or tea, it could be used as a beautiful garnish and sweet treat on top of your cocktail. Whichever form of hibiscus you have access to, try adding it to your beverage for a vibrant and tart flavor.