Here is my favorite summer cooler, hands-down. It's made with the leaves of the hibiscus flower (jamaica in Spanish, pronounced ha-MY-ca) and a Mexican cane sugar called piloncillo (PEE-lon-CHEE-yo). It's awesome straight up, mixed with other fruit juices or black iced tea, or topped off with a bit of tequila.
We made this in class last night and quite enjoyed it, but I suspect we would have loved it even more with some tequila. You can find jamaica and piloncillo at many supermarkets: often jamaica is sold as hibiscus flowers in the tea section. Piloncillo is usually in the Mexican foods section, and sometimes in the baking section. If you can't find piloncillo, an unwashed cane sugar like turbinado or demerrara is a good subsitute.
- 8 cups water
- 1 cone or brick of piloncillo or 1 cup Demerara or turbinado sugar
- 1-1/2 cups jamaica leaves, rinsed
Bring the water to a boil with sugar in a 10-12 cup stockpot. Take the pan off the heat, stir in jamaica and cover. Let the leaves steep for at least 20 minutes, longer for a stronger brew.
Place a sieve over an 8 cup measuring cup and pour the brew into the strainer. Discard leaves and put the brew into the refrigerator to chill.
When cold decant into a pitcher with ice and serve immediately. Serves 8-12.