Summer Cocktails with Hibiscus Flowers. Queso Fundido & Grilled Marinated Chicken

Big glass jars and icy pitchers of agua de jamaica are a common site throughout Mexico. Classified under the agua fresca umbrella, this refreshing beverage is made from dried hibiscus flowers. It’s deep crimson in colour with a tart flavour offset by sugar – sometimes too much.

It makes a spectacular ice tea served in tall frosty glasses and easily lends itself to adventures in the kitchen with the addition of other ingredients from mint to ginger, or for those with adult tastes, agua de jamaica adds a festive touch to vodka, gin or tequila-based cocktails.
My go-to recipe uses two cups of hibiscus flowers to six cups water. Add one cup sugar or other sweetener (honey, white grape juice, piloncillo for an authentic touch, or flavoured sugar syrups that some of you budding mixologists will have on hand). Adjust the sugar to taste.

Bring the mixture to the boil and let steep off the heat for at least two hours. Strain, extracting as much of the juice from the flowers as possible.
Pour over ice with a splash of soda, or in this case use for a twist on the margarita. It’s best with a silver, or reposado in a pinch, but no anejo.
We played around with ratios: 1 1/2 oz. tequila, juice of one lime, 1/4 oz. triple sec, agua de jamaica to top the glass.
It provided ample fuel while hovering over the barbecue waiting on chicken marinated in lemon juice and zest, chilie, garlic, olive oil and fennel seeds.
And was welcome with a round of queso fundido served with hot corn tortillas.

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