For approximately half a year, the Rebel Bartender worked at one of the wineries in the Sonoita region of Arizona – yes, we have wineries, and multiple areas of them, at that! One of the products we regularly demonstrated were these: wild hibiscus flowers, candied in syrup. And while the salesmanship of the winery staff was certainly above par, the fact that we sold so many of these probably had more to do with the product itself than anything about our demonstration.
Like many great ideas, it’s simple enough at the core, but endlessly versatile. Pour a flute of champagne and drop one in the bottom along with a bit of the syrup; you have an instant cocktail fancy enough to serve at a party with less than a minute of preparation. Drain a few and use for color and sweetness in a salad. Use as garnish to any cocktail with a sweet/floral character. Or – as more than one returning winery customer admitted to doing – grab a fork and eat a few straight out of the jar for dessert. (They’re quite tasty, if a bit sweet – the jar claims “raspberry and rhubarb flavors”, but the Bartender always felt they resembled a Fruit Roll-Up in both texture and taste. Perhaps a bit much on their own, they complement the dryness of champagne nicely.)
Really, their only downsides are their rarity – the Bartender has only found them in specialty stores and gourmet food shops – and their price. A small jar (eleven blossoms, give or take) tends to run $10-$12, and a large one (50 blossoms) closer to $40. Theoretically, they don’t spoil, but after about six months in the fridge the Bartender lost the remaining half of her large jar to fermentation, so if you work with yeast in the kitchen at all and don’t have a large party planned, the smaller jar might be a better investment. Or you could take the remaining blossoms with some champagne to a sunset picnic on top of a mountain and impress your friends with a beautiful and delicious dessert. A
Picture of Wild Hibiscus jar ganked from wholesalegourmet.net. Picture of hibiscus at sunset taken by the Rebel Spouse atop Mule Mountain, Arizona.