Drinks with edible flowers Recipe

Sonya Balasubramanyam

Flowers are one of nature’s greatest creations. A single bloom can light up a dreary room, while a bouquet of pretty blossoms has the power to convey human emotion. Flowers have also been used for centuries to impart their intoxicating aroma and flavours to foods, particularly desserts and drinks. From exotic flowers like lavender and elderflower to traditional Indian favourites like hibiscus and rose, reach for these unusual alternatives to create delicious thirst quenchers.

While the way in which the flower is utilised depends on the variety, most flowers are used in their dried form, while some are directly used fresh. Usually to extract the flavours from the blooms, they are steeped in hot water and then crushed, or boiled along with sugar and other natural flavourings to create flavoured syrups.

hibiscus tea

Take the Hibiscusor roselle flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) that have in recent times gained immense popularity. This garnet-red flower with its tart and lemony flavour with berry-like tones is used to make a number of beverages. Most common perhaps is the alluringly red tea, which is enjoyed both hot and cold.

In India, this flower called Jaswand (in Hindi) is used to make a syrup that is then added to water or milk to create a cooling sherbet. Drinking the sherbet is believed to have medicinal values that include lowering blood pressure and boosting one’s antioxidant reserves.

rose milkOf course, there is the quintessential flower of love – the beautiful Rose. This heady bloom has been used for time immemorial in India to yummy desserts and make condiments, syrups and drinks. The delicate rose petals are distilled to make rose water, and also to make syrup. The seed pod of the rose, called rosehips are also used to make wine and rosehip syrup. Depending on the strength of the rose flavour and aroma desired in the drink, one can choose between rose water, syrup or just the petals. Whichever type of rose extract you choose, remember that the intense aroma and flavour can be overpowering if not used cautiously. In India, rose syrup is often mixed with milk or water or yoghurt to create that ideal summer drink.

elder flowerAnother popular flower used to create refreshing drinks, particularly in Europe and Western Asia, where it grows in plenty, is Elderflower. A simple way to enjoy this flower is by adding fizzy water to elderflower cordial to make a lovely summer drink. The cordial is also added to cocktails and mocktails for its subtle, fragrant sweetness. A delicious British classic made from these blooms is Elderflower Champagne, which is a simple concoction made with the flower heads, sugar, water, lemons, white wine vinegar and yeast. This plant is not indigenous to India, so find a way to get your hands on a bottle of St. Germain Elderflower, a prized liqueur that is made from the blossoms of elder trees grown in the Swiss Alps, which can be used to flavour your summer quenchers.

By doing this you would be keeping pace with bartenders and mixologists around the world who have begun to reach for flower-based liqueurs and infusions to create original cocktails with distinctive floral flavours and aromas. Some other additions include Lavender Bitters and Crème de Violette. Even the flowers of herbs like thyme and rosemary are used to make syrups that flavour drinks and contribute the aromatic element to the cocktails.

chamomileChamomile, another pretty flower well-known for its many medicinal properties is perhaps best known for its soothing tea infusion. A refreshing drink that can be made with dried chamomile flowers is lemonade. Dried chamomile flowers can also be softened in warm water, muddled and added to cocktails. Beautiful and delicate Lavender flowers are also used extensively in food. Its sweet and floral flavour with very mild lemon and mint tones is enjoyed in simple syrup-based quenchers, martinis and vodka-based drinks – the perfect way to drink in summertime.

A simple guideline to make flower-based syrups is to boil equal measures of sugar and water till the sugar completely dissolves. Add the washed flowers (quantity depending on your personal taste and how flavourful the petals are) and place the syrup back on a low heat till you can smell the heady aroma of the flower. Let the flowers steep in the syrup overnight. It’s best to refrigerate the homemade syrup after you bottle it. Remember to use only the freshest flowers that have not been treated with any chemical agents or pesticides.