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  • Bettina Applewhite

Spiced Hibiscus Lime Punch

Usually red foods and drinks are used in celebration of Juneteenth. Hibiscus tea is a red drink that you can spike with lots of flavor for a true Juneteenth celebration. Keep reading below for recipe for a flavorful cocktail and history of the red drink's connection with Juneteenth.

There are many thoughts for symbolic reasonings for using the red color. Some believe it's representative of all the slave blood that was shed over the years. Some believe it dates back before American slavery even began with the Yoruba and Kongo tribes drinking a tea made from Hibiscus flower called bissap. During the slave trade the flower was introduced to the Americas. No matter the origin, red food and drinks have long been a part of Juneteenth celebrations.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was long after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation- which had become official January 1, 1863. One of General Granger's first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3, which began most significantly with:

"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between employer and free laborer."

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members.

In today's society we are celebrating Juneteenth as the day the slaves were freed. Despite the freedoms granted previously, the slave owners kept that information to themselves and continued to work the slaves as property. The Union soldiers had to come and share the news with the slaves. And then they knew they were actually free.

To keep with the traditions of Juneteenth, this spiced hibiscus punch can be made in a big batch and shared with friends and family. There's no need to have make lots of individual cocktails. That's time consuming and takes you away from your guests. Make a big pitcher of punch and you're free to join in the celebrations.

This punch has a vibrant red color from using hibiscus tea. These flowers have a vibrant red color that stains the water the same color. Make this tea in advance so you can scratch something off your to-do list.

I spiced the tea with cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. This makes the tea more complex. I added fresh lime juice to the punch to make this punch refreshing. You can have the best of both worlds: complex and refreshing. See the recipe below. You can leave out the rum to make this recipe alcohol-free. It's just as tasty!

Spiced Hibiscus Lime Punch

Serves 6


1 Cup Hibiscus Leaves

4 Cups Water

5 - 10 Cloves, whole

5 - 10 Cardamom pods, green or black

2 Cinnamon sticks

1/2 Cup Simple Syrup (Find recipe here)

1-1/2 Cups White Rum

1/4 Cup Lime juice, fresh (about 2 limes)


  1. Add hibiscus leaves and water into a medium sized pot. Heat tea leaves on medium heat until just about to boil. Turn off heat. Add in cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. Allow to steep and cool completely. Strain spices and leaves from tea.

  2. Spiced tea can be chilled in the refrigerator for one hour and up to 2 days in advance. Once tea has chilled, add in the rest of the ingredients into a large pitcher filled with ice. Serve over ice and enjoy on a summer day.

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