Rum punch is a classic Caribbean cocktail traditionally made with multiple fruit juices, like pineapple and orange, and of course a generous amount of white rum. But at LoLo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem, New York, sorrel is the star of this classic drink.
Often confused with the green sorrel herb, sorrel (or Hibiscus sabdariffa) is called by different names depending on which region you’re in, with it also commonly referred to as hibiscus tea. The flower calyx is typically dried and boiled to create a tart, deep red drink popular in countries throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and West Africa.
Leticia “Skai” Young-Mohan and her husband Raymond Mohan own LoLo’s and explain that they use sorrel because they wanted a drink to serve guests that was light, refreshing, contained less processed ingredients, and offered a slightly healthier option to traditional rum punch. Studies show hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure, soothe sore throats, and even treat heart disease.
“Our punch is different because it definitely has more of an unctuous fruit flavor. Rum punch is made with fruit juice, while LoLo’s Punch is lighter and more translucent,” says Young-Mohan, who is a former bartender. “It’s really based on sorrel, and that is typically something that you’ll have around the holidays. It’s got a lot of health benefits, as opposed to something like a rum punch with tons of sugar and fruit juice.”
Young-Mohan, whose mother is from Belize and her husband who is Indo-Guayanese, say their cultures heavily influenced the restaurant’s vibe and menu to make guests feel like they’re “island hopping.”
“We try to keep things simple, especially with the chefs and myself coming from a fine dining background where typically there might be a lot of ingredients in a dish,” says Young-Mohan, who attended the French Culinary Institute which is now known as the Institute of Culinary Education. “Our dishes only have a handful of ingredients in everything. I think it was important to also have a drink to match that, where you can definitely taste everything that’s in it.”
LoLo’s Punch involves few ingredients with one of them being water, leaving plenty of room for customization if you want to add sliced fruit or additional spices to really kick up the flavor.
“If you want to jazz it up, you can also use ginger ale if you don’t have ginger, and put a little spritz in there,” Young-Mohan says. “It’s something that’s really light for the summer.”
LoLo’s Punch Recipe
Yield: 1 gallon
4 ounces dry sorrel
1 gallon water
2 cups sugar
4 ounces coconut rum
1. Bring water, sugar, ginger, cloves, and sorrel to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Fill your cup with ice.
3. Pour 3/4 of the way with sorrel mix.
4. Add 4 ounces of your favourite coconut rum.
5. Float with Ting or your favorite ginger ale if you like.
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