Spice Up The Holidays With Healing Beverages From The CaribbeanDec 02, 2021 06:00AM ● By Trish Ahjel Roberts
Southeast of the United States, the Caribbean region is home to more than 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays. Caribbean restaurants proliferate in Atlanta and most major urban areas in the United States, but many of us do not realize that traditional Caribbean beverages offer healing properties along with their delicious flavors. They can be a great, refreshing and nutritious addition to spice up traditional holiday fare and an excellent alternative to sugary sodas and bottled juices. Here’s to a new year full of new adventures, health and joy!
Deep red in color and served cold and spicy or spiked with white rum, Jamaican sorrel is the traditional holiday beverage of the island. Sorrel is a plant in the hibiscus family, but this drink can also be made with traditional hibiscus. It is rich in flavonoids, which give it a bright color and act as a powerful antioxidant that can rid the body of free radicals that damage other cells in the body. According to the Jamaican Scientific Research Council (SRC), sorrel also contains a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. It is known as a diuretic that improves kidney function and is believed to improve heart health by lowering bad cholesterol. Premade varieties are available in the international sections of grocery stores, at specialty ethnic grocers and online. Here’s a traditional recipe to enjoy at home:
2 cups loose sorrel or hibiscus flowers
¼ to 1 cup fresh ginger root
10 pimento berries (allspice)
8 cups of water
Mint, lime or orange slices as garnish (optional)
Jamaican white rum (optional)
Wash the desired amount of ginger with water, chop it into pieces and mince in a high-powered blender. Transfer ginger to a pot or heat-safe pitcher and add sorrel or hibiscus flowers and pimento berries. Boil the water and pour it over the ginger/sorrel mixture. Allow it to brew for 6-8 hours or overnight. Strain well. Add sweetener to taste and add rum if desired. Cool in the refrigerator and serve over ice. Garnish with mint, lime or orange slices if desired.
Irish Sea Moss
Ever since Kim Kardashian posted a sea moss smoothie to her Instagram account in 2019, this plant has been getting a lot of attention in the U.S., but it’s old news in the islands. It’s a light blonde color and can be purchased whole and dried or as a supplement in gel or capsule form. And although it is named “Irish,” it’s a traditional beverage throughout the Caribbean, including Trinidad and Jamaica. Some studies suggest that sea moss is a true wonder food; it is reported to help with weight loss and immune, thyroid and gut health. It might offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and cancer, provide muscle and energy recovery after a workout, improve the health of skin and nails, and encourage fertility.
A traditional Caribbean drink, Irish Sea Moss is light-colored and thick like a milkshake and can serve as a healthy alternative to holiday eggnog. In fact, like eggnog, it takes nicely to a shot of rum or brandy and pumpkin pie spices. The main ingredient might seem a little unusual, but many find it worth the patience required to soak and boil the sea moss.
2 cups sea moss
4 cups sweetened almond milk
1 cup raisins
1 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg
Rinse the sea moss more than once and then let it soak overnight in water. Boil with the cinnamon stick until it becomes soft like jelly, strain and let cool. Place in a high-powered blender with almond milk, raisins, peanut or almond butter, cardamom and nutmeg. Blend until smooth. Add additional sweetener, rum or brandy, if desired.
Jamaican Ginger Beer
Although the name suggests otherwise, ginger beer is alcohol-free. It is loaded with the healing power of ginger, a prized root that is used around the world to treat a wide variety of ailments. Ginger has a long history in both traditional and alternative medicine, containing a compound called gingerol, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger root can be purchased fresh, dried, powdered, pickled or as an essential oil or supplement; it has been used to aid digestion and prevent nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy, surgery and pregnancy. Ginger is known to help fight the flu and common cold and may even help protect against cancer, bacteria and viruses. Some studies report that it might also help people maintain their ideal weight, reduce arthritis symptoms, lower blood sugar, improve heart health, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improve brain health and decrease menstrual pain.
Ginger beer has gained more attention than most Caribbean beverages and might be found in the main or ethnic section of the local grocer. But it’s also easy to make a homemade version of it—just be prepared for a flat beverage without carbonation. On the other hand, light carbonation can be added by adding bottled seltzer to the recipe below.
2 cups ginger root
6-10 cups water (Use only 6 cups if planning to add seltzer)
Carbonated water (optional)
Dark rum (optional)
Wash the ginger, chop into pieces and mince in a high-powered blender. Transfer to a pot or heat-safe pitcher. Boil the water, pour it over the minced ginger and let it brew for 6-8 hours or overnight. Strain well. Add sweetener to taste and seltzer, if desired. To make a Dark & Stormy cocktail, add dark rum and garnish with lime. ❧
Trish Ahjel Roberts is an author, coach, speaker and founder of Mind-Blowing Happiness, LLC and Black Vegan Life™. Access her blog and free self-care e-book at TrishAhjelRoberts.com.