Something you definitely can’t go one more minute without knowing is that Pantone’s official color of the year is “Ultraviolet.” (Ultraviolet is beyond the visible light spectrum but I won’t tell if you won’t.) The point is, you can expect to see a lot of purple in places like Banana Republic shop windows, and in some cases your local bar.
I’d like to introduce you to your new best friend for cocktails that look like they were crafted at the Three Broomsticks: the magical flowers of the colorfully named Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as the butterfly pea. (A quick glance at the blossoms should explain both the taxonomical and common names.) My 10-year-old mixologist started begging me for butterfly pea flowers after being introduced to them at school, so we actually have a boatload of them in our kitchen. Here’s the deal.
First of all, anything edible with that degree of color saturation is going to be an antioxidant-bomb, and butterfly pea tea has been used in Ayurveda and other Eastern traditional medicine systems as an anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, mood enhancer and, yes, female libido booster. So there’s that. The flowers produce a deep, rich blue infusion (depending on the flowers and steeping time, anywhere from navy to cobalt to indigo) with a mild and pleasant flavor (earthy and slightly leguminous). On its own, butterfly pea tea is a completely wild color. It also happens to be Ph sensitive and will change colors depending on the acidity or alkalinity of the mixer. In the presence of acid, it will change to hot pink.
A few suggestions for getting a little Ultra:
Empress Gin created Empress 1908 using the butterfly pea as one of its gin-ly botanicals and the result is tasty gin with magical color-changing abilities. Play around. I don’t recommend seltzer; you might get a lugubrious and highly unappealing gray.
If you want to play with color-changing cocktails without the pre-purpled spirits, butterfly pea blossoms are not expensive and readily available online. Here are a few odes to the magical butterfly pea (and the Brussels sprout) from some of our friendly consulting mixologists! Try them out in honor of the it-color of 2018.
Cody Blaylock, Bacchus Bar (Portland, OR)
2 oz. Encanto pisco
.5 oz. Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 oz. citric acid solution
.75 oz. butterfly pea simple syrup
Directions: Shake first three ingredients and double strain a mini decanter; add pea syrup to martini glass separately with a cherry, and pour clear solution over to make the magic.
Directions for the solution: Dissolve 15 g of citrus acid into 165 g of water.
Directions for syrup: Steep dried flowers in water and make a standard simple syrup. (1:1 ratio)
Notes from the bartender: This color-changing cocktail is an ode to ‘Ultra Violet.’ It took me a while to figure out how to get the colors just right, but I took inspiration for the flavor from a pisco sour, with the Encanto and citrus, nixing the egg white to keep the potion clear. That way the purple can really pop.
Jenn Knott, 312 Chicago (Chicago, IL)
1.5 oz. Taylor Fladgate LBV 2009
1 oz. Remy Martin VSOP
.25 oz. Averna
.25 oz. Cinnamon-Orange Demerara Syrup
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
Directions: Dry shake all ingredients and then add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into chilled rocks glass and garnish with lines of gold dust. PS don’t sweat it if you’re out of gold dust.
And if you want more chemistry-experiment cocktails in your life, this one takes a little more effort but Rael Petit of Delilah NYC crafted the Ültra Violet Rain as a New Year’s Eve special to ring in the year of Ultra Violet. This mad scientist concoction gets its ultra-showy color from a combination of Jaegermeister and… yes, red Brussels sprouts! I have not tried this one yet, but if you can’t get your hands on red Brussels sprouts or a barstool at Delilah, I suspect purple cabbage would do the same work.
Rael Petit, Delilah NYC (New York)
2 oz. Jägermeister and Red Brussels Sprout Extract
1 oz. Champagne
½ oz. Vodka
½ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz. Ginger Syrup
Directions: Build lemon juice, ginger syrup and vodka into shaker. Shake and strain into coupe glass. Top with champagne. Float Jägermeister and red Brussel sprout extract on the top of the drink. When combined with the citrus, the extract changes from blue to ultra violet.
Red Brussel sprout and Jägermeister Extract: In a pan, place two pounds of red Brussels sprouts and 100 mL of water and cook on high for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, place into another container and top with saran wrap. Let sit for a half hour. After half hour, strain out the water. Add one tablespoon of baking soda and that will turn the water from purple to blue. Add 80 mL of water mix with 40 mL of Jägermeister. Store the container in the freezer.