A Toast to History and Innovation in America’s First Legal Black Distillery

In the rich tapestry of Caribbean culture, a vibrant thread weaves through the history of beverages: Sorrel, a hibiscus drink that is as much a part of the Caribbean’s heritage as its sun-kissed beaches and lush landscapes. This drink, with its deep red hue and tangy taste, carries with it centuries of tradition, a legacy of the spice trade, and a profound connection to the African diaspora.

Brooklyn’s modern twist on this timeless classic introduces a bright red liqueur that marries Moroccan hibiscus with an exotic blend of Brazilian clove, Indonesian cassia, and Nigerian ginger. This innovative creation marks a significant milestone in American distillery history, being the first product of its kind from the nation’s first legally recognized Black distillery.

The story of Sorrel begins long before its introduction to the New World, rooted in West Africa’s ancestral memory of The Red Drink. Hibiscus, known for its potent medicinal properties, traveled across the Atlantic alongside enslaved Africans, bringing a piece of home to unfamiliar lands. This red drink evolved into Sorrel, a cherished recipe throughout the Caribbean, symbolizing resilience, community, and the enduring spirit of a people.

Sorrel became more than a drink; it was a tradition, a festive staple, and a bridge connecting the past to the present.

The journey to bring Sorrel to the modern market is as compelling as the drink itself. Jack, leaving behind a 25-year career in corporate America, embarked on a mission to share this 500-year-old tradition with the world. Without a background in food chemistry, he created the first-ever shelf-stable version of Sorrel, launching JackFromBrooklyn distillery in 2012.

 As the first known Black person in America post-Prohibition to hold a license to make liquor, Jack’s story is a testament to innovation, perseverance, and the power of heritage.

In celebration of Black History Month, Bob sat down with Jackie Summers on Cocktails with Friends Episode 18, the visionary behind Sorel hibiscus liquor. This unique liquor not only tantalizes the taste buds but also tells a story of our collective history, paying homage to Jackie’s roots and the shared legacy of the African diaspora.

Featured Cocktail: Jackie & Hyde

To honor the rich history and bold flavors of Sorel, we present the “Jackie & Hyde” cocktail, a versatile creation that can be enjoyed in two distinct ways:

Technique 1:

  • 1.5 ounces Wyoming Whiskey Private Stock “Cocktails With Friends”
  • .5 ounces Ancho Reyes
  • .5 ounces Fresh Lemon Juice
  • .5 ounces Sorel Liquor

Add all ingredients to a mixing tin, shake with ice, and strain over a large cube for a refreshing cocktail experience.

Technique 2:

  • Follow the same recipe, but add all ingredients to a coffee mug and top with hot water, stirring well for a warming beverage.

Served cold or hot, the “Jackie & Hyde” cocktail beautifully showcases the versatility of Sorel, making each sip a celebration of history, culture, and innovation. As we enjoy these drinks, let’s raise a glass to the enduring spirit of Sorrel, a drink that transcends time and continues to bring people together in the spirit of joy and community.

So, whether you’re a whiskey enthusiast or a cocktail aficionado, we invite you to join us on our Cocktails with Friends podcast, where we share insider tips, secret recipes, and engaging conversations with fellow enthusiasts of fine food and drink. Cheers!