Rick Bayless’s Recipe Agua de Jamaica

Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 14

If you live in California, you’re bound to have some little grocery store that looks like the one on the left. This is my top mercadito for all the special things I need for Mexican cooking— tamarindo, nopales, all kinds of dried chiles and those lovely little dried hibiscus flowers called flores de jamaica in Spanish.

After a cold rainy spring, summer is finally here in the Sierras, and I’m going to give you a great recipe for a drink called agua de jamaica, the perfect tart/sweet refreshment for sipping on hot, dry days with a book in your hand and the fan turning back and forth as you read.

The first time I had agua de jamaica was in Oaxaca. We’d been roaming the markets in the sweltering spring heat. I was looking for an all white huipil and falda from Mitla—the one that Lili wears at the birthday party she throws. The picture on the right even LOOKS hot, doesn’t it?

Dave had been a really good sport, lugging my purchases around, but I could tell he was done.

When he suggested a drink in the cool of the sheltered patio at the ex-convento de Santa Catalina, now the Camino Real Hotel, I said sure.

Well, Dave ordered a beer, but that would have put me to sleep for the rest of the day. I didn’t want the ubiquitous Coca-cola they always offer, so one of the waiters suggested agua de jamaica.

It arrived at my table—an amazing garnet red color— in one of those hand-blown glasses that are the color of sea water. On top they’d placed a beautiful peach colored hibiscus flower. If you live in the south where those things grow, you could add that little touch.

Anyway, here’s Rick Bayless’s version of this delicious beverage.

Rick Bayless’s Agua de Jamaica


2 cups dried jamaica flowers
1 1/4 cups sugar


In a medium non-reactive saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the “Flowers” and sugar. Stir for a minute or so, while the liquid returns to a boil and the sugar dissolves. Cover and let steep for an hour, but no more than two.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a large pyrex bowl, pressing on the “flowers” to extract as much
liquid as possible. Stir in three cups of water and chill in a glass pitcher, one that won’t stain!

Enjoy your summer!

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