There is no one I trust more with mixology than my friend Jamee Robinson.

Jamee's Frozen Hibiscus GimletSo, when I wanted something red, refreshing, and ever so slightly intoxicating to sip on a hot summer night, I took her to my garden, gave her some Roselle leaves and calyces and said “Work your wicked magic!”

She did. And we tried several, hunched over her blender, just to make sure. Later, I made more at home. Just to make sure.

A visually stunning, frozen twist on an old-fashioned cocktail—her creation substitutes the tangy zing of Roselle for the fresh lime of a classic gimlet, and the color, flavor, and texture is further enhanced by summer’s own watermelon.

Once infused, the simple syrup and vodka can be stored in the fridge for future gimlets or your own creations — they only get better with age.


The bright red calyces of Hibiscus sabdariffa may be dried or used fresh. That deep red color packed with anthocyanins and Vitamin C translates to the glass regardless. Photo credit: Ed Aldrich

8 ounces water

8 ounces sugar

30 dried Roselle calyces (Hibiscus sabdiffera)

375 ml bottle of excellent vodka

2 cups watermelon squares, frozen

10 ice cubes


Up to two days before you wish to serve this tropically inspired gimlet, mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sugar to create a simple syrup. Bring to boil and turn off heat, adding 15 Roselle calyces. (Yes, simple syrup – infused or plain – really is that easy.) Put the mixture in a Mason jar and let it remain, tightly sealed in the fridge. Drop 15 calyces into the vodka bottle and let that sit at room temperature in a dark cupboard. Cut up the watermelon into small 1-2 inch cubes (depending on the strength of your blender) and freeze.

To mix the frozen gimlet: Measure 6 oz vodka, 2 oz syrup into a blender. Add 2 cups of watermelon cubes and 10 ice cubes. Blend thoroughly. Serve immediately in ice cold glasses (preferably straight out of the freezer), garnished with a red-throated Roselle blossom and/or a leaf for a tart contrast.

Makes 4 cocktails.

tropical plants and how to love them