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How To Make a Hibiscus Tequila Sparkler, a Perfect Labor Day Cocktail

Big Shirley Cocktail on table.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Here we are, looking at the tail end of summer and toasting its final days with Labor Day cocktails and the like. This time of year calls for backyard grilling, drinks on rooftop bars, and one last camping trip or two. It also demands a drink with some of the timeliest flavors we can think of; tequila, hibiscus, and soda.

We reached out to our bartender friends for a sparkling cocktail fit for right now. Something fun, effervescent, and a joy to both make and drink. Chase Bracamontes is the lead bartender and partner at Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar in Chicago. The new bar mixes up a host of quality drinks, from classics to contemporary sippers. She offered a great recipe, below, for the Big Shirley — one that really harnesses the power of hibiscus. It’s the brainchild of Bracamontes and her bar manager, Julian Sanchez.

Why hibiscus? A variety of reasons, it turns out. One, you get a lot of color from this tropical flowering plant. Also, it’s a unique flavor, full of tart red fruit notes somewhat akin to cranberry. As such, it works great in many things, from cocktails and beers to tea and kombucha, even cooking sauces. It’s also just fun to say. But here, specifically, it turns grenadine into something else entirely, much less sweet and cloying.

Sure, there’s an easy way to make a hibiscus sparkler that’s essentially just the syrup of the flower and some sparkling wine. And while we love that spin on a mimosa, we believe you can do even better and make something a little more elevated. Enter, the tasty and playful Big Shirley. Bracamontes says the drink reminds her of Large Marge from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. “It’s just good times and kid memories layered on top of each other,” she says. But there’s an older, sophisticated side to the drink as well.

“The difference is the grenadine is a little tart from the pomegranate and hibiscus and fresh with the orange peel,” she says. “The drink has definitely evolved into a flavor for adults.”

Big Shirley

Essentially a Shirley Temple for adults, this drink utilizes a homemade batch of grenadine made of citrus and whole hibiscus flower. The end result is an electric drink perfect for late summer and early fall. The color says the leaves will change soon but the flavors remind that the sun is still very much out and shining. Should you feel like trying a new spirit as the base, Bracamontes suggests gin in lieu of tequila.

  • 1.5 oz tequila
  • .25 oz hibiscus grenadine*
  • Sprite
  • lime wedge and cherry for garnish
*Hibiscus Grenadine: Combine 4 ounces pomegranate juice, 4 ounces black cherry juice, 2 cups of sugar, 2 ounces of hibiscus flowers, and the peel of 1 orange in a pot. Put on high heat and stir as liquid boils. Once the sugar has dissolved, take off heat and cool and strain.
Method: Mix tequila and grenadine, shake, and pour into a glass. Top with Sprite and garnish with lime wedge and cherry.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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