I’m a southerner at heart; and, in the Tidewater Region of the Southeastern United States, our holiday tradition revolves around festive open houses. For us, an ideal open house consists of champagne, the ubiquitous holiday punchbowl, cocktails on demand, and a smorgasbord of appetizers.
The most famous of these, which gets my memory banks fired up every holiday season, is salt-cured ham (known as country ham) and cocktail biscuits, finished off with a variety of sweet, spicy and savory spreads. Suffice it to say, the appetizers are the meal, and folks linger, visit, and laugh for hours over their drinks and nibbles. The nibbles become the dinner. It’s sort of like a good tapas party. So, naturally, I strive to re-create this feeling every Christmas, wherever I may be in the world.
For starts, we need to have the right drinks, and punch bowls are not an option in a place that’s 100° in the shade at Christmas (unless you like drinks that are watered down with gallons of melted ice). So, I needed another recipe…..
Enter Sloe Gin Abidjanaise, an original African cocktail base, which retains the gorgeous red color and rich flavor of bissap, while infusing it with gin, a beverage which is routinely used to solemnize sacred occasions throughout West Africa. What could possibly be more appropriate? And, the best part is, it’s dead simple. You can whip up a batch of this gin in no time flat, and wow your friends and colleagues at your next holiday event!
1 L good quality gin
130 g turbinado sugar
350 g bissap (dried hibiscus flowers, available at Latin and African markets)
- Combine gin and sugar in a non-reactive bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves completely.
- Pick over bissap, discarding any loose sticks or other foreign objects.
- Rinse lightly in strainer under running water, to remove dust, sand, and other impurities. Drain thoroughly. (Be careful, bissap will bleed, and it stains. Keep the strainer in the sink.)
- Add bissap to bowl with gin and sugar. Stir gently.
- Leave the mixture in a warm place for one hour. Stir once again, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator. Leave in a warm place, stirring gently every 2 hours for 8 hours.
- Refrigerate overnight once again.
- Remove from refrigerator. Stir gently. Strain and decant into decorative bottles for home use or gifting.
Stay tuned for our other Foodie Friday posts this December. We will be introducing you to some African-inspired appetizers and even Sloe Gin Abidjanaise cocktails!
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Adapted from: Bissap Gin, celtnet.org