Rose Hibiscus Lime Cooler


I love keeping jars of interesting drinks, mixers, tonics, and concoctions – especially in the summer. This ayurvedic beverage (to cool the acid and heat of Pitta constitutions) is delicious, very easy to make, and full of vitamin C. Boil 6 cups of water, add a handful of dried rose petals* and a handful of dried hibiscus flowers** and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain, cool in a large glass container, and then add the juice (and zest, if you like) of two limes. Beautiful, delicious, and fancy, this rose hibiscus lime “cooler” is great over ice, and has such a strong flavor that you can easily cut 50/50 with seltzer water, as I did above, or use it as a summertime mixer. Garnish with fresh mint or a lime wedge for extra pizzaz!

* Did you find some local, organic rose petals? If you did, the easiest way to preserve them for the year is to dry them. I lay mine out on a sheet pan and leave them in my oven for a few  hours. If your oven is electric, instead of gas, you will need to heat it to about 100 degrees. Of course, you can always spread the petals and leave them on the counter to dry.

**You can find dried hibiscus flowers in the bulk food or herb sections of your local natural foods store or Co-Op. Alternatively, you can often find them packaged and sold with herbs in the “Mexican” or “Latino” section of grocery stores, under their Spanish name, “Rosa de Jamaica.”



Commonwealth Ciders – local, dry ciders have arrived

commonwealthIt’s Fall in Philadelphia! The air has finally begun to crisp, the leaves to turn, and I’m digging my cardigans out from storage. Fall means, apples, and apples mean, among other things, delicious cider. I love a cup of hot spiced cider when the weather cools, but the rest of the year, cider, especially the bottled, alcoholic kind, doesn’t make my “must have” list. I have nothing against fermented apples, in general, I just haven’t enjoyed the overly-sugared, cider-pops that I find on grocery shelves and neighborhood bar “anti-gluten” lists. It’s not the apples’ fault!

Recently, at a happy hour fundraiser for one of my favorite Urban Farms, Greensgrow, I had the pleasure to taste (and by taste I mean drink) a new local “dry” cider made by local brew heroes, Philadelphia Brewing Company. Rolling out under the name Commonwealth Ciders, these deliciously dry, apple-based beverages have NO ADDED sugar. What does that mean? For starters, drinking a Commonwealth Cider, vs. a Woodchuck or other standard sugared brand, is the difference between sipping a sparkling dry cava, and popping open a bottle of fizzy Moscato. Now, you might love a sweet fermented drink, but they’re just not for me, which is why I’m so excited to discover this new local option.

Even better? They come in a variety of flavors purely derived from the source – with no artificial flavors or sugars. The “Gregarious Ginger” blew my ginger-loving mind, and the Raspberry promised exactly what it delivered – a clean, dry, hot off the bush raspberry flavor. Of course, you can stick with the “Original Dry,” too, now appearing on tap across Philadelphia. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the gorgeous, boudoir-worthy brand concept.

The representative I spoke with promised cases at distributors by Fall — have you seen any yet?

Rhuby at AITA

During September’s First Friday I popped in at Art in the Age to see the new show by the Reverend Michael Alan’s new show – a collection of drawings that eventually influenced the design of the AITA’s Rhuby label. Not yet able to find a bottle on the shelves, I was delighted to try this new spirit (I’ve only been waiting for months!) In 1771, Ben Franklin sent our nations first botanist, John Bartrum* a packet of rhubarb seeds from Britian,and America had a new, sourly delicious crop. Bartrum, smart man that he was, concocted a “garden tea” rhubarb, beets, carrots, lemon, petitgrain, cardamom, pink peppercorn, coriander, vanilla, and pure cane sugar. This early beverage is the inspiration for Root. Below you can see a slightly fuzzy photo that illustrates these influence.

If you haven’t tried Root or Snap, previous liquors in the AITA organic spirits line, it’s difficult to explain their dense spicy/sweet flavor profiles. On a simple level, though, I’d say that Root is most like bourbon, Snap is most like rum, and Rhuby is most like gin – crisp and vegetal with a touch of spice. AITA was serving it with tonic, but I made sure to try some on the rocks, just so I could tell you about it; s unmixed flavor, of course. Have you tried Rhuby yet? What are you drinking it with? AITA has a few ideas….

*If you haven’t been to Bartrum’s Garden, a treasure in Southwest Philadelphia, you really must get yourself there.