Anyone familiar with Mexican agua de Jamaica will recognize this drink. Made from hibiscus flowers (which come from the same plant family as Myanmar’s beloved sour leaf), this sipper is supernaturally magenta, and its pleasant sour flavor goes so well with a meal of rich Burmese curries that it’s easy to imagine this drink making inroads in Myanmar.
This recipe is really two drinks in one. The hibiscus water makes about 4 cups and can be cut with a little sparkling water and served over ice. Or go to the next step and turn the hibiscus water into a spicy cocktail served by the pitcher. As far as spirits go, look for a good-quality blanco tequila or pisco, which also pairs well with hibiscus water. Track down dried hibiscus flowers at Mexican grocery stores.
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
4 ½ cups water
¼ cup white sugar or grated palm sugar
Handful of cilantro sprigs
½ jalapeno, sliced thinly
½ cup lime juice
3 tablespoons Ginger Juice (page 161; optional)
4 cups hibiscus water
12 ounces blanco tequila
¼ cup Palm Sugar Syrup (page 160)
To make the hibiscus water, rinse the hibiscus flowers and soak for 30 minutes to and hour to soften. Drain well, put in a pot, and cover with the water. Add the sugar and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the flavor of the hibiscus flowers has been extracted, about 10 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes and then strain. If the water tastes too intense for your liking, don’t worry; it will be diluted later. (Alternatively, you can make it more intense by letting it steep for 20 minutes before each straining.) Refrigerate until completely chilled.
To make the punch, in a small bowl, muddle the cilantro with the jalapeno with a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon. Pour in the lime juice and ginger juice, swirl the bowl, and pour the contents of the bowl into a pitcher. Pour in the hibiscus water, tequila, and sugar syrup and stir thoroughly. Chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
To serve, fill 8 glasses with ice. Give the pitcher a stir, pour into the glasses, and then top each glass off with sparkling water as desired.