Not to be confused with the sour green herb, Sorrel is a Caribbean drink made from the flowers (sepals, actually) of the hibiscus plant -- in specific the species roselle, or Hibiscus sabdariffa . Vivid red and tart, hibiscus makes a delicious tea, which is high in vitamin C. Ironically in the country of Jamaica, the drink is known simply as sorrel, whereas the similar drink in Mexico is known as agua de Jamaica (or just Jamaica), pronounced as ha-MY-eh-ka.
Sorel (note the single r) is a brand of sorrel liqueur made by Jack from Brooklyn. A tea is made from water and hibiscus, clove, ginger, cassia and nutmeg. This is mixed with sugar and wheat grain spirit, filtered, and bottled. The resulting liqueur is sweet/tart, with the brightness of the hibiscus on the background of dark pie spices.
It can be effectively used in recipes that call for a fruit liqueur. Take care before adding additional aromatic bitters (such as Angostura), as Sorel already has ample pie spice. Sorel cocktails can be both interesting enough for the jaded cocktail enthusiasts and broadly appealing to a diverse group. Highly recommended.
Some popular cocktails containing Sorel liqueur
- Holloway — Bitters, Sorel liqueur, Orgeat, Cream, Rose petal
- Barnes Stormer — Apple brandy, Rum, Sorel liqueur, Bitters, Soda water, Ginger syrup, Lemon juice
- The Spice Channel — Rye, Campari, Aperol, Sorel liqueur, Becherovka, Tea
- McCarren Park Swizzle — Bison grass vodka, Pear eau de vie, Falernum, Elderflower liqueur, Sorel liqueur, Bitters, Lemon juice, Mint
- The Safe Word — Reposado Tequila, Aperol, Aromatized wine, Sorel liqueur, Peychaud's Bitters, Grapefruit peel
- Lifes Rich Pageant — Bourbon, Aromatized wine, Amaretto, Sorel liqueur, Peychaud's Bitters, Lemon peel
- The Bang Bang — Mezcal, Sorel liqueur, Simple syrup, Lime juice, Hellfire Habanero Shrub
- La Dernière Danse — Gin, Herbal liqueur, Sorel liqueur, Lime juice
- The Fall Classic — Rye, Calvados, Sweet vermouth, Sorel liqueur, Apple
- Jacked Up Rose — Apple brandy, Sorel liqueur, Campari, Bitters, Cider, Orgeat, Lime juice
I really liked this liqueur, but I'm pretty sure it's discontinued now. I've been using a mix of Greenbar's Fruitlab Hibiscus Liqueur + a touch of allspice liqueur (The Bitter Truth) in it's place.
Jackie writes movingly about his struggles bringing Sorel to market, and keeping it there, here. He intends to bring it back.
I'm glad to hear Jack is working on bringing it back. He lived in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and met him a few times. Great guy. I found two bottles, dusty and ignored, in a Massachusetts liquor store last year and bought them with the intention of hoarding. Perhaps I can open one now if more is coming again. :)