Jamaica Summer Cooler

Get ready for the most delicious and refreshing drink for those hot summer days.  Agua de jamaica (pronouced huh-my-ka) is a fresh Mexican juice made from dried roselle flowers, called jamaica in Spanish.  The deep garnet red color will make you go wild, and its tangy taste resembling cranberries will make you swoon.

While studying abroad in Mexico, I discovered aguas frescas, fresh juices available on every street corner.  In the heat of a summer day, friends and I would walk out to the main plaza, order an agua fresca, sit and watch the world go by or watch the stray dogs and old men with cowboy hats take naps around the park.  The juices were served in tall plastic bags with a straw.  Wrapping the bag around the straw held the juice in place so we could suck it up.  Agua Fresca flavors ranged from watermelon (sandia), strawberry (fresa), horchata (a cinnemon rice drink), and, always my favorite, jamaica.  This is a very easy recipe with 3 ingredients: water, dried jamaica flowers, and sugar.  Like cranberry juice, jamaica juice is good for digestion and bladders.

Printable Recipe: Agua de Jamaica (Fresh Jamaica Juice)

Start with 2 heaping cups of dried jamaica flowers, available at any Latin market.In a large stainless steel pot, add 8 cups of water and the flowers.Over medium heat, bring the water and flowers to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and let the liquid cool down, between 1- 1.5 hours.  During this rest time, the dried flowers will continue to exude their flavor. (Did you forget about the resting flowers?  No worries, I’ve forgotten the jamaica juice for 6 hours before and just added a cup of water to help dilute it.  For each hour and a half that you forget it, I’d add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water.)

Using a colander, carefully drain the juice into a pitcher and discard the flowers.  CAUTION: jamaica juice stains whatever it comes in contact with, so be extra cautious draining it. Dissolve 1 cup of sugar to the juice.  However, this part is completely up to your taste preferences.  I like my juice tangy with a tiny touch of sweet flavor.  If you need more sugar, add it in 1/4 cup at a time, mix, then taste again until you are satisfied.  1 cup is my perfect satisfaction spot.

To serve, fill up a glass with ice cubes, then pour in agua de jamaica.  Relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy.  Feeling extra special?  Add springs of mint or a lemon slice.  Drink it plain or use it in place of cranberry juice in mixed drinks.

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