Contributed by Linda Shiue, MD


What’s on the Trinidadian holiday table? You’ll still find a ham, but it will be flanked by treats you won’t find elsewhere. Hands are busy wrapping tamale-like pastelles, and serious home cooks are baking traditional Trinidad black cakes with fruit that’s been soaking in rum since the year before. No one would blink an eye to find curry and roti sitting side by side on the table with the pastelles and ham, and instead of tree-shaped sugar cookies, you’re more likely to find barfi, an Indian milk sweet.

With all this food and treats to eat, you’ll need a drink to wash down this feast.

My favorite is sorrel, which is brewed from dried hibiscus flowers. In Mexico, these flowers are known as flor de jamaica, sweetened with sugar and steeped with sweet spices. Sorrel is also known as roselle or hibiscus, and it’s rich in antioxidants (possessing more than green tea) and vitamin C.

Servings: 12 8-ounce servings


  • 1 1/2 cups dried hibiscus/sorrel/jamaica flowers (available at Latin and Caribbean markets as “flor de jamaica”)
  • 3 quarts water
  • Cinnamon stick
  • 2 to 3 star anise
  • 1 slice fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste*

*This a festive treat for the holidays that has many nutritional benefits, but shouldn’t be considered an everyday beverage due to the added sugar. You can decrease sugar to taste or use agave or other sugar substitutes, if desired.


  1. Place hibiscus flowers, spices and water into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn off heat and steep until you have a beverage the color of cranberry juice, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add sugar to taste.
  4. Strain and serve over ice.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 40
  • Total fat: 0 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 10 g
  • Dietary fiber: 0 g
  • Sugars: 10 g
  • Protein: 0 g