When I started dreaming of a festive punch, I initially considered cranberry or pomegranate but, frankly, I was a bit tired of these ingredients, which appear in every other beverage this time of year. Instead, I turned to a holiday tradition from Jamaica, where a drink called "sorrel" is made from hibiscus blossoms. Throughout the world, dried hibiscus or roselle is steeped in water to make crimson-colored tisanes, juices, and punches, and in Jamaica especially the hibiscus is combined with ginger for a tart and pleasantly spicy beverage.
To make this punch, I mixed a rich hibiscus and ginger base with ginger ale and then either champagne, sparkling white wine, or sparkling mineral water. For the non-alcoholic version I recommend using a true mineral water (like Perrier) rather than other carbonated waters. Its subtle mineral flavor and more delicate bubbles are a sophisticated substitute for the alcohol. But use any fizzy water that works for you.
On the subject of substitutions, what if you can't find dried hibiscus blossoms (also known as "flor de jamaica" in Latin American markets)? Try making a strong brew with hibiscus tea bags; Celestial Seasonings and The Republic of Tea are two widely available brands.
Hibiscus Ginger Punch
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
2-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
4 cups chilled ginger ale
2 750-mL bottles chilled champagne, sparkling white wine, or sparkling mineral water
Optional: ice, garnishes of mint, lemon or lime slices
Combine water, hibiscus blossoms, and ginger in a pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in sugar. Let cool, strain, and chill. (If you like, save some of the plumped-up hibiscus blossoms for garnish.)
To make punch, stir hibiscus juice with ginger ale and champagne or mineral water. Garnish if desired and serve immediately.
Related: Recipe: Hibiscus-Earl Grey Iced Tea
(Images: Emily Ho)