Senegalese Bissap

February 1, 2017

I drink a version of bissap every Christmas season with my family and didn’t even know it. It was not until I went to a restaurant in Little Senegal, a Senegalese neighborhood in Harlem,  where I had bissap and I found a connection between my Jamaican culture and African heritage. Bissap is the national drink of Senegal and can be enjoyed at every meal. It’s floral aroma has a slight tang with citrus undertones. Commonly known as sorrel in the Caribbean or flor de Jamaica in Mexico, bissap goes by a few different names depending on which tropical climate you have it in. The deep ruby colored drink comes from a hibiscus flower native to West Africa. If you drink hot hibiscus tea in the morning, bissap is its cooler counterpart that is traditionally served cold. Bissap is simply sweetened with sugar, but it easily transforms into a spiced drink with the addition if ginger, cloves, allspice seeds, or orange peels.

When I am in New York and Atlanta I know exactly where to find dried bissap or sorrel petals. I go to any Caribbean, Latin, or African food market and I know I’ll find it. Oddly (or not so oddly), I knew exactly (well not exactly, I did a little wandering) where to find bissap here in Paris where I currently live. I headed to Chateau Rouge, a district in Paris where shoppers can find speciality products and foods from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. I roamed a few narrow streets passing hair braiding shops and seamstress shops. I found a quaint grocery store where I spotted a bag of dried bissap almost immediately, along with a few other spices I was in need of. I roamed further to discover a full market of vendors on the street selling meats, fresh produce, and roasted chestnuts charing on an open flame.

I am very excited to have this post be included in a virtual Black History Month Potluck. This potluck feature recipes from black bloggers that have unique cultural inputs to the culinary world. Be sure to check out other bloggers of color from our Facebook page – We Love Black Food Bloggers.

Senegalese Bissap
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Bissap is a refreshing traditional drink from Senegal. The deep red color comes from the roselle hibiscus flower.
Written by:
Cuisine: African; Caribbean
Serving size: 8 servings
  • 2 cups dried bissap petals
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 cloves (optional)
  • 10 allspice seeds (optional)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • handful fresh crushed ginger (optional)
  • 4 ounces overproof white rum (optional)
  1. When water is boiled remove from heat and add the dried bissap petals.
  2. Stir in sugar to dissolve.
  3. To make the Caribbean version add cloves, allspice seeds, cinnamon sticks, and ginger.
  4. Steep petals for 15 to 20 minutes and strain with a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Add overproof white rum to spike the drink!
  6. Chill in the refrigerator overnight and serve cold.

Check out the other bloggers in the Black History Month Virtual Potluck:

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Foodie In New York | Twice Baked Yams

Chef Kenneth | Smothered Okra with Shrimp

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Simply LaKita | Banana Pudding

My Forking Life | Callaloo and Saltfish

Gucci Belly | Swamp Water

Kaluhi’s Kitchen | Ukwaju (Tamarind) Marinated Spicy Chicken Thighs

Sweet Savant | Coffee-Rubbed Lamb Ribs

Salty Sweet Life | Southern Greens Shakshuka

Eat.Drink.Frolic. | Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I Heart Recipes | Southern Fried Cabbage

Jehan Can Cook | Mango Turmeric Smoothie

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The Kitchenista Diaries | Coconut Milk Braised Collard Greens

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D.M.R. Fine Foods | Curry Chicken Pot Pie

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  • Reply Tamara February 2, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    I grew up in Antigua drinking sorrel too! I never knew it could be made with dried petals, back home I think we only use fresh when they’re ready around Christmastime.

    • Reply seasoningbottle February 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Yes! I found it dried in Paris and I’m use to the dried version in the States too. But I know during Christmas time in the Islands, that’s when they blossom to use them fresh!! I’m so excited to share this common drink with you!

  • Reply whatdevondiscovered March 3, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    I had no idea there was a Senegalese neighborhood in Harlem. I used to live in the 90’s. How could I miss it.

    • Reply seasoningbottle April 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      OOh Yes! It’s mostly right on 116th!

  • Reply Vernell Toure December 24, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    This how I make mine but I also add Red Label wine. My Senegalese ex-husband never added alcohol to his as he is Muslim

    • Reply seasoningbottle December 24, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      Red Label wine seems like a really great addition!

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