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Sorrel, a Popular Jamaican Christmas Drink

Sorrel, a Popular Jamaican Christmas Drink

There’s no Christmas in Jamaica without sorrel, a drink that is infused with ginger, sweetened with sugar and spiked with white overproof rum. It is as ubiquitous at Christmas time as rum cake, curried goat, and rice with pigeon (gungo) peas.

A hibiscus variety, sorrel came to Jamaica from West Africa. According to the National Library of Jamaica website, references to Jamaican sorrel date to the 1700s.

How to Make Sorrel Drink

Sorrel plant

Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It is also rich in copper, calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. Researchers at Jamaica’s Northern Caribbean University have found that three varieties of sorrel that are grown on the island could be effective in fighting some forms of cancer.

Many Jamaicans have the plant in their backyard gardens and some use it not only to make the popular Christmas drink but also to cool fevers, cure colds and lower blood pressure.

Sorrel Drink

Sorrel sepals

Its popularity as a Christmas beverage likely stems from the fact that it is harvested around November/December – just in time for the festive season. For many years, sorrel was only available at that time but as the numbers of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals living in North America and the UK swell, you will find several different brands of the dried sepals for sale in supermarkets and health food stores. You can also find the bottled beverage available in some Jamaican/Caribbean restaurants.

Sorrel is also popular in Latin America. A few years ago, my boss’ Mexican wife introduced me to flor de Jamaica. I was so fascinated by the name of the blood red tea she’d made, it took me a while to realize that the color and vaguely familiar aroma was really sorrel.

Unsweetened, sorrel has a sharp, tangy taste. Add a little sugar and it becomes a refreshingly delicious drink. Sorrel can be used to make jams, jellies and chutneys, the leaves can also be used in salads.

Sorrel Drink
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  1. 6 cups water
  2. 3 cups sorrel sepals
  3. 2 oz ginger
  4. 6 whole pimentos
  5. 1 cup granulated sugar
  1. Bring water to boil.
  2. Pour boiling water over sorrel and ginger. It should be enough to cover the sorrel
  3. Cover and let steep overnight.
  4. Strain and sweeten.
  5. Add rum, if desired.
  6. Add pimento berries and refrigerate.
  7. Serve with ice.
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Jamaica Travel News

Falmouth Pier seen from the Courthouse

The following is a round-up of travel news culled from the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaican Observer newspapers.

Make the historic Cuba Cruise

Five days after the winter tourist season commences, Jamaica will be part of history when Louis Critsal Cruises sails out of Montego Freeport en route to Cuba.

This is the first time that a cruise line will operate ships between the two neighbouring countries.

During an interview on Monday, Cuba Cruise’s marketing and media coordinator, Melissa Medeiros, confirmed that the first ship from the tourism capital will depart on Friday, December 20, and operate every Friday until March 21, 2014. Read more here.


Jewel Paradise Cove Opens

The 225-room Jewel Paradise Cove hotel in Runaway Bay, St Ann, officially opened last weekend to become the third hotel in the Jewel brand owned by Sagicor Life Jamaica.

Jewel Paradise Cove joined the Jewel Runaway Bay, and the Jewel Dunn’s River in Mammee Bay, St Ann, as Sagicor extended its interest in Jamaica’s tourism product. Described by the company as its most contemporary spa resort, the redesigned adult-only property sparkles from its multimillion-dollar upgrade, offering services that are centred on its health, spa, and fitness theme.

Private balconies and patios have been added to the rooms, another evidence of the physical enhancement that has been made to the property. Of the 225 rooms, 15 are junior suites that have been totally refurbished to offer more luxurious accommodation for the guests. For more.


Jamaica on Target to Make Stopover History

THIS year is shaping up to be the best in the history of stopover arrivals, with preliminary figures suggesting that Jamaica could welcome more than two million visitors to the island by the end of the year, according to Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill.

“The 15th (today) is the start of the season but if we continue tracking at that pace, as we are doing now, we will have a landmark year as for the first time in history we would surpass two million stopover visitors for 2013,” McNeill told editors and reporters at the Jamaica Observer Press Club held at the newspaper’s head offices in St Andrew on Thursday. Read more here.


$20-billion Boost For Tourism Sector

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill has said that over $20 billion in investments have been earmarked for Jamaica’s tourism sector.

“What we have on the books in terms of investment is about 20 billion in the tourism sector and it brings about 840 rooms on stream which are either new rooms or old rooms that have been completely refurbished,” McNeill said. Read more here.


Shorter Wait Expected at Airports

With thousands of visitors expected to travel to Jamaica during the 2013/2014 winter tourist season which begins today, efforts are underway to lesson the lengthy wait in long lines at the island’s two international airports.

According to Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, the process has already begun with the removal of the outgoing immigration service, which had contributed to the bottleneck, from both the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Read more here.

Our 3rd Blogiversary – in 3 Takes, Take III and a Giveaway

Flowers near the sea

My visit to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Lesotho starting me blogging, but Jamaica was my inspiration to get in to travel. Though I was born in Jamaica, I don’t know it as well as I think I should.

When I got laid off from my job in November 2003, I was excited. For several months prior, two friends and I had been planning our next professional moves. Mine was to start a tour company that would showcase Jamaica the way I see it, not the sand, sun, reggae and rum tour that many people associate it with.

At less than 4,500 square miles, Jamaica is slightly smaller than the Connecticut yet it is as diverse as many countries twice its size. Part of the island’s beauty is its lushness. Jamaica is a garden full of a variety of flowers, including orchids – about 200 species, nearly half of them endemic to the island, several hundred types of ferns and trees which bathes this little piece of rock in a riot of color year round.

It was not surprising then that my first post was about flowers, the kinds of flowers that my mother, grandmother and countless Jamaicans grow, the flowers that make my heart smile. Since then, I’ve blogged about flowers several times.

Our fruits…

Me no drink cawfee tea, mango time. Care how nice it may be, mango time. Mango Time, Jamaican folk song

We’re passionate about fruits but especially mangoes, which is celebrated by its own folk song. Yes, when it’s mango time in Jamaica we eat it at every meal. Almost.

Our food…

3rd Blogiversity in 3 Takes

Little Ochie’s Jerk Lobster

Jamaica has more than 300 species of birds, more than two dozen of which are endemic to the island. The doctor bird, a swallowtail hummingbird is our national bird.

3rd Blogiversary in 3 Takes

Doctor Bird, Roaring River, Westmoreland

Domestic animals are also quite common. You’ll notice goats, cows, as well as donkeys, especially in the rural areas. 

3rd Blogiversary

Holy Goat, Trelawny

Sometimes, it's the Characters that Make Travel Memorable

Dunns River Falls Donkey, St. Ann



From large great houses, opulent castles such as Trident to small board houses, we have them all. Take a look.

3rd Blogiversity in 3 Takes

Trident Castle, Portland, Jamaica

 Our churches….

Our landscape

Blue Mountain sunrise

Blue Mountain sunrise


Our beaches…

Twenty or 30 years from now, I’m going to be on a beach in Jamaica. – Idris Elba

Mobay Beach

Montego Bay Beach

Our people

3rd Blogiversary Giveaway

In celebration of our 3rd Blogiversary, we’re giving away three prizes – two (2) copies of the Lonely Planet travel guide to Jamaica, and a copy of The Real Taste of Jamaica by Enid Donaldson to three lucky winners. Enter by December 22nd by leaving a comment, tweeting about the giveaway #3Years3Prizes or liking us on Facebook. It’s that easy. The giveaway is open only to addresses in the United States and Canada. Good luck!


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Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

The Jamaican Cookbooks I Can’t Live Without

Pepperpot soup

Many of us learn to cook while watching the women in our families – our mothers, grandmothers, and aunties. Many others learn from using cookbooks.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen in my early days – but I was doing homework rather than actively watching my mother cook. Frankly, I wasn’t very interested, maybe because I was a picky eater, but she also wouldn’t let me near the stove.

So the kitchen wasn’t alien territory to me and as soon as I was old enough, I was helping her bake the rum cakes that are synonymous with Christmas in Jamaica and the Caribbean. I loved those days in the kitchen with her. It was a little game with us – me trying to sneak and eat some of the nuts she had to put in the cake, she trying to catch me with the evidence.

Maybe because of all those years in the kitchen, I wasn’t worried about not being able to cook when I moved away to attend school. Part of it was common sense – I knew, for example, that if I planned to cook rice and peas, I’d have to boil the peas before adding the rice. The most important part, I think, was memory — I knew how the food was supposed to taste.

I was confident. Fried chicken was one of the first meals I tried. It was a Sunday and I remember thinking that my kitchen smelled just like the one at home.

And as time passed, I perfected the meals I tried and added new ones to my repertoire. Each time I visited home, I brought one or two  Jamaican cookbooks back with me.

Jamaican Cookbooks on My Kitchen Counter

These Jamaican cookbooks come in handy,  when I’m baking, when I need to look up ingredients or recently, when I was researching the history of homemade peppermint candy.

Norma Benghiat’s, Traditional Jamaican Cookery, my first purchase, reminded me of a little cookbook my mother used. Benghiat’s book features all the traditional dishes and provides background information on many ingredients in the extensive glossary.

Enid Donaldson’s, The Real Taste of Jamaica, Rev. Ed., is the book I refer to friends who want to learn more about Jamaican cooking. A larger than Benghiat’s book, it’s full of attractive color photos that make the foods jump off the page. I turned to Donaldson when I started to make Easter buns and use it frequently to check ingredients when I try something new.

Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style, Helen Willinsky – As the name suggests, all the recipes are about jerk and were created in Walkerswood, a local company’s kitchens. My favorite recipe from Helen is the Stir Fry Vegetables and Jerk Tofu, which I wrote about recently.

A Collection of 19th Century Jamaica Cookery and Herbal Recipes – a lovely collection of old recipes, I check this cookbook out when I need herbal remedies.

Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Recipes, Lucinda Scala Quinn – I love Lucinda’s cookbook more for the photos than the recipes. I use for presentation ideas.

Food of Jamaica: Authentic Recipes from the Jewel of the Caribbean (Food of the World Cookbooks), John DeMers and Eduardo Fuss – Again, another Jamaican cookbook I love for the color photos of the food. When I feel adventurous, I check for variations on recipes or presentation.

Nyam Jamaica a Culinary Tour (Nyam Jamaica), Rosemary Parkinson, at coffee-table size and 425 pages, this isn’t just a cookbook, it’s a culinary tour de force through all fourteen of the parishes that make up Jamaica. Beautifully photographed, Nyam (an African word for eat) Jamaica looks at the history of the food, it features interviews with the cooks who make the foods, and offers unique recipes, like ackee cheesecake.

JamaicanEats, while not a Jamaican cookbook, this magazine features articles on cooking, stories, and reader recipes.

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