Why Sorrel Marks the Christmas Season in the Caribbean

by Carolee Chanona

In North America, the spiked drink of choice for Christmas is always eggnog: richly made, spice-seasoned, and cream-colored. However, in Belize and the wider Caribbean, Rum Popo is just the beginning. During the numerous house visits and festive occasions, you’re usually offered a glass of Sorrel, but what exactly is it? The refreshingly sweet, warmly-spiced drink is served cold, getting its distinctively red hue from steeped petals of the tropical hibiscus plant, Sorrel (flor de Jamaica).   

In the Caribbean, sorrel first rooted itself as a Christmastime tradition due to the roselle’s seasonal availability; fresh sorrel flowers pop up in farmers’ markets across the country, and even your local grocery store, just before Christmas. Much like the variation of eggnog in the Caribbean (Belizean rum popo, Martinican gwozey liqueur, Puerto Rican coquito, Trinidadian Punch de Creme), the festive Sorrel drink has been tweaked and perfected at each Caribbean country, varying the spices and other ingredients; the addition of ginger ale, wine, rum, and other alcohol is not uncommon.

From Sorrel Flowers to a Christmas Staple in the Caribbean

dried sorrel caribbean

Dried sorrel. Photo via AfroVitalityEats

The base is created by taking the fresh crimson hibiscus buds (though dried are becoming increasingly available), de-seeding them to reveal only the petals, and steeping in either hot water or boiling for a few minutes. In the hot bath, add your aromatics and flavor-enhancers like ginger, orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon to steep for at least 4 hours and up to overnight in the fridge to intensify the flavors. Once steeped, add sugar to sweeten and your choice of alcohol to taste. Sorrel Drink is considered more like a boozy punch, versus the non-alcoholic Agua de Jamaica, which is more like a fruity lemonade. However, you can serve both over ice.  

Belikin beer sorrel belize

Belikin’s seasonal Sorrel Stout.

Sorrel’s robust and tangy flavor is enhanced with warm spices that evoke cozy feelings of family gatherings, cooler weather, and ultimately, Christmas. Belizeans expect to see sorrel on drink menus this time of year; whether thats a cocktail or the seasonal Belikin Sorrel Stout. Introduced in December 2011, the first Sorrel Stout stock was completely sold out in 10 days! Have leftover sorrel drink? Reduce to a glaze over the lowest heat and top plain cheesecake, ice cream, and even your Christmas ham. With Christmas almost here, it’s undeniable that sorrel is a huge part of Belize’s festive traditions!  


Spiked Belizean Sorrel Drink

In North America, the spiked drink of choice for Christmas is always eggnog: richly…
What to Eat sorrel drink, caribbean sorrel, sorrel Belizean Caribbean Print This
Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
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  • 5 cups fresh sorrel petals  
  • 3 oz. fresh ginger, grated  
  • 2 cups brown sugar, or to taste  
  • 3 cinnamon sticks 
  • 3 allspice seeds 
  • 2 inches orange peel, fresh  
  • 10 cups boiling water   
  • 2 tbsp lime juice 
  • ¾ cup white rum  



Photo by InnerGourmet.com

Place sorrel and aromatics in a large pot and cover with water; bring to a simmer, and turn heat off. Let steep in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours to overnight. Strain mixture and add sugar, lime juice, and rum; stir until sugar has dissolved. Enjoy iced!

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