Herein lies the story of a week of hibiscus syrup imbued cocktails. Overall, they were lovely. The hint of flowery sweetness added a really special twist to every beverage I mixed it with.
The recipe for sirop d’hibiscus came from the aforementioned La Cuisine aux fleurs by Véronique de Meyer. The syrup starts out with sugar in which a sliced vanilla bean has soaked overnight. Then star anise, cinnamon, cloves are added to the mix, which is warmed with water until dissolved. The hibiscus flowers are added last and soaked in the syrup overnight again before one final straining. The finished syrup supposedly lasts in the refrigerator for eight days; however, mine has been keeping in a container for almost two weeks now and is still perfectly delicious.
One tip on harvesting hibiscus flowers (the recipe calls for five, but next time I might use one or two more): ants and other teeny tiny insects really love hanging out between the petals. Clean them out once, let them sit for a moment and then clean them again. You will probably find more bugs.
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Dash Curaçao
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Frost edge of glass with castor sugar and fill with Champagne.
For the Chicago, I dipped the edge of the glass in Hibiscus Syrup before frosting with castor sugar. It just added a little extra floral hint, nothing extreme to interfere with the original cocktail recipe—just a nice extra summery twist.
Fancy Cocktail (6 people)
Pour into the shaker 5 glasses of Cognac and a dessertspoonful of Angostura Bitters. Shake thoroughly and serve, adding a little Champagne and a piece of lemon-rind after having rubbed the edges of the glasses with lemon syrup.
For the Fancy, I dipped a bit of lemon into the Hibiscus Syrup for the edge of the glass. Similar effect as experienced with the Chicago, although I think in that case the sugar heightened the taste of the syrup a bit, whereas here the lemon tempered it down.
1/3 Lemon Juice
1 Spoonful Powdered Sugar
Pour into tall glass containing cracked Ice and fill up with Champagne.
“Hits with remarkable precision.”
This is true.
As you may have guessed, I did a night of champagne cocktails shortly after cooking up the Hibiscus Syrup. While I was able to use the syrup in the first two beverages, it was more of an afterthought… both in reality and in taste. The French 75 is the cocktail I was most excited to use for experimentation with the Hibiscus flavor.
I substituted 1.5 spoonfuls of Hibiscus Syrup for the Powder Sugar. The result was delicioso and a perfect later summer twist to my old favorite the French 75.
In retrospect I should have served this one first rather than last, as the gin based French 75 is much lighter cocktail than the brandy and cognac based Chicago and Fancy.
Outside of the realm of Savoy cocktail recipes, I whipped up a gin and tonic imbued with hibiscus syrup. It was entirely delicious, if a little feminine. Very refreshing. The hibiscus syrup basically took the flavor place of a squeeze of lime or lemon. It also made the basic cocktail taste much fancier than it actually is.
The cookbook in which I found the hibiscus syrup recipes suggested mixing it with a bottle of champagne or other sparkling wine, which I did at the end of my experimentation with the champagne cocktails listed above. Again, it added an extra touch of light flowery sweetness and served to dress up the champagne a bit. Perfect for a garden party or luncheon. If you are into such things.
Similarly, a bit of the syrup mixed into plain old sparkling water is quite refreshing as well.
For next week, I aim to sample a professionally themed cocktail:
2 Dashes Lemon Juice
2 Dashes Curaçao
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1/6 French Vermouth
1/6 Italian Vermouth
2/3 Gordon’s Dry Gin
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.