The striking crimson hue of LoLo’s Seafood Shack’s rum punch is proof that the Caribbean cocktail classic takes many forms. Usually juicy with pineapple or orange and white rum, the Harlem, New York restaurant imbues the drink with sorrel.
Not to be confused with the green sorrel herb, the sorrel in this punch goes by many names: Hibiscus sabdariffa, hibiscus tea, bissap, and more. The tart, deep red drink made from dried and boiled calyx has long been popular in countries throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and West Africa.
Leticia “Skai” Young-Mohan and her husband Raymond Mohan own LoLo’s and explain that they use sorrel because they wanted a drink to serve guests that was light, refreshing, contained less processed ingredients.
“Our punch is different because it definitely has more of an unctuous fruit flavor. Rum punch is made with fruit juice, while LoLo’s Punch is lighter and more translucent,” says Young-Mohan, who is a former bartender. “It’s really based on sorrel, and that is typically something that you’ll have around the holidays.” But, oh, is it so good on a hot summer day.
Young-Mohan, whose mother is from Belize and her husband who is Indo-Guayanese, say their cultures heavily influenced the restaurant’s vibe and menu to make guests feel like they’re “island hopping.”“We try to keep things simple, especially with the chefs and myself coming from a fine dining background where typically there might be a lot of ingredients in a dish,” says Young-Mohan, who attended the French Culinary Institute (now known as the Institute of Culinary Education). “Our dishes only have a handful of ingredients in everything. I think it was important to also have a drink to match that, where you can definitely taste everything that’s in it.”
LoLo’s Punch involves few ingredients with one of them being water, leaving plenty of room for customization if you want to add sliced fruit or additional spices to really kick up the flavor.
“If you want to jazz it up, you can also use ginger ale if you don’t have ginger, and put a little spritz in there,” Young-Mohan says. “It’s something that’s really light for the summer.”