Every other week, Anna Hezel talks about the innovations, decorations, and other quiet touches that make a party memorable.
Today: Make-ahead hibiscus ice cubes to add a gradient of color to your party drinks.
One of my favorite parts of party planning is the process of culling resources and turning them into something unexpected. When you’re planning a tiki party, this may mean buying pineapples to turn into tropical flowers, or it may mean finding dried hibiscus flowers to turn into ice cubes.
Traditionally used as a tea ingredient and valued for its health benefits, hibiscus has been making a surprising number of appearances in Brooklyn food and drink in recent years. From summery cocktails to Dough’s famous hibiscus doughnut, the tropical flower has been celebrated for its cranberry-like, slightly acidic taste and, perhaps most valuably, the deep magenta color that it imparts to any liquid it is being steeped in.
For just a few dollars, you can buy dried hibiscus blossoms by the bagful at international food stores (I found mine at Kalustyan’s in Manhattan), and bring them to life with hot water. They will expand and brighten until they almost look like fresh flowers.
By freezing hibiscus flowers into ice cubes, you can create a sort of time-release coloration to cocktails — a gradient that continues to change as the ice melts. Think of a Tequila Sunrise in all its beautiful kitschy glory, minus the cloying glug of grenadine. And rather than having to mix cocktails individually for each guest, you can just set out a pitcher of Mai Tais or a tequila drink alongside a bowl of the ice cubes.
- bag of dried hibiscus flowers
- boiling water
- cold water
- silicone ice cube tray or metal cupcake tin
Distribute a few petals of hibiscus into each well of your ice cube tray or cupcake tin. Pour boiling water over these until the tray is halfway full. Put the tray directly into the freezer. I use hot water for this so that more color will steep out of the flowers and so that the water will freeze faster.
After about 1 hour, the cubes should be frozen. Fill the tray the rest of the way with cold water, and return to the freezer. Freeze for about 3 hours. Once the cubes are frozen through, unmold them from the tray and store in a large zip-lock bag until the time of the party.
Photos by Anna Hezel