A Floral Phenomenon
Latin name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Common name: Hibiscus
Hibiscus is a popular key botanical in gin often taking centre stage. It also pops up in mixers and is found paired with pomegranate and grapefruit where its tart fruitiness finds natural partners.
There are 679 species of this showy flowering plant, native to India and Malaysia, and now found in warm temperate, tropical and sub-tropical regions throughout both hemispheres. The plants not only cover a vast range on this planet but are also annual as well as perennial, herbaceous plants and woody shrubs.
The colours range from white, through pink, red, peach and purple. It is the crimson Hibiscus sabdariffa that is used in the production of gin. The roselle plant is an annual woody shrub cultivated for its flowers, growing up to 2.5m tall.
The name hibiskos was assigned to the plant genus by the Greek physician and Roman army medic Pedanius Dioscorides who wrote De Materia Medica, a 5 volume pharmacopeia. A tea was also drunk by the pharaohs in Ancient Egypt.
It isn’t the flowers that are used in teas, gin and for medicinal purposes, it is the calyces, the sepals that form a whorl that protects the petals. The plant in herbal tea form is used variously around the world to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as heart disease and soothing a sore throat. Although, none of the claims are clinically proven.
Hibiscus contains high levels of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, malic acid and tartaric acid.
Hibiscus in Gin
It is the rather unappealing dried trumpet-shaped flowers or calyces that distillers are interested in. The calyces are tart to the point of bitterness, adding a jammy floral note to gin.
The red calyces are also sometimes added post-distillation to infuse a pink colour into the gin.
Hibiscus Gins to Try
Eden Mill Love Gin and Siderit Hibiscus Gin both have hibiscus as a key botanical.