Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower Drink)

Two of my favorite warm weather drinks, which are enjoyed all across the Caribbean, are iced “Bush Tea” and Jamaica drink. In the US Virgin Islands, bush tea is any combination of local herbs, but in my experience, almost always is made mainly of lemongrass. Jamaica, or hibiscus, flowers also make a tart tea that is so delicious (and that most people have probably had before if they’ve had any “zinger” iced teas). Unfortunately, both lemongrass and hibiscus can possibly cause uterine contractions, and so I’ve avoided them in tea/herbal form during pregnancy.

Until now! My doula let us know that since I’m 40 weeks, hibiscus could be a safe way to possibly induce labor. I’m skeptical, but who cares–I love it!

I like this adapted recipe, but you could definitely add less sugar if you’d like. Taste and sweeten as you like. The ginger adds a really nice Caribbean twist. And happy early Mother’s Day everyone!

Jamaica Drink

Agua de Jamaica

adapted from Hibiscus Punch,

  • 12 C. boiling water
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 C. dried Jamaica flowers (also known as hibiscus or flor de Jamaica)
  • 1 C. granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime

Pour boiling water over ginger, Jamaica flowers, and sugar, and stir until sugar has dissolved. Let steep 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large, heat-resistant bowl or pot. Stir in lime juice and set aside to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve over ice.

Bourbon Milk Punch

Okay, seriously you guys, this one is just in time for the holidays. This is a drink we whipped up for our recent holiday cocktail party that I can’t recommend more: a Southern (and much lighter) answer to eggnog.

There’s something about the overly rich, thick taste of eggnog, combined with bad memories of artificially flavored grocery store eggnog that is a turn-off to me. But this is wonderful–ice cold, pleasantly nutmeggy, and nicely festive. And it has bourbon, which as a KY girl, if I’m going to drink hard liquor, is only right. Many recipes called for the addition of half-and-half or even cream, but I really do prefer (and recommend) it with just whole milk.

We threw ours in the freezer the night before the party and left it out for a half-hour before serving, flaking it with a fork to add it to our punch bowl. It’s wonderful served in julep cups, but since not everyone has a ready supply of those sitting around, you can also simply serve it over ice in plastic cups 🙂

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays to everyone!

photo 3 (1)

Bourbon Milk Punch

  • 5 C. whole organic milk
  • 1.5 C. bourbon (not your best, but not the worst either)
  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • a very generous fresh grating of nutmeg

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Throw it in the freezer till slushy or frozen through and serve in julep cups. Alternatively, serve over crushed ice or whole ice with an extra garnish of grated nutmeg.

Watermelon Basil Mint Cooler

We have finally settled in a bit more to Knoxville, and we’ve especially been soaking in two of the amazing things this part of the US has to offer: great hiking and an abundance of amazing summer produce.

Well, I’ll add a caveat to that. This post is actually born out of a less than amazing piece of produce, amongst an otherwise incredible bounty, that I picked up at the farmer’s market the other day. I chose a small watermelon for dessert and was surprised to slice into it and find it was a yellow watermelon. It was beautiful, but unfortunately had very little taste. Still, it wasn’t mealy or anything, so I was trying to think up uses for it. It needed a bit of sweetness added, and we had some herbs on the counter, so I immediately thought of a watermelon cooler. If it weren’t in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, and if our liquor cabinet had been stocked up, I’m sure I would’ve added some booze. Some would say vodka, but personally, I’d go for rum. But then, I’m more of a rum drinker than a vodka drinker… Anyhow, I digress.

This was a refreshing snack this afternoon. It is somewhat annoying to put the juice through a sieve, but to tell you the truth, it only took a minute or two, and we don’t have a juicer and there were lots of seeds in the watermelon, so it was necessary. Those of you with a juicer, juice away sans sieve!

Watermelon Basil Mint Cooler

  • 1 small watermelon (or 3-4 C. chunks of watermelon)
  • 2-3 tsp. powdered sugar
  • 1-2 stems basil
  • 1-2 stems mint
  • wedges of lime, optional
  • rum or vodka, optional

Place the watermelon in a blender or food processor and blend quickly, pulsing until liquefied, but not longer. Pour the juice through a sieve, pressing the fibrous bits to get any remaining juice out. Dispose of the fibrous leftovers and seeds. Strip the herb leaves off the stems. Add the extracted juice back to the blender with the sugar and the herb leaves. Blend until smooth and herbs are incorporated. Serve over ice, adding alcohol or a squeeze of lime if desired.