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Color Changing Cocktails | The Next Summer Trend?

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Hi, Friends of Cocktails. Today we’re making magic, by creating cocktails that change colors - well it’s not technically magic, just basic chemistry, but that doesn’t sound as catchy. We’ll make three colored infusions of spirits, using pink rose buds, red cabbage and butterfly pea tea. Here’s the magic part: we’ll then use these colored spirits in three different cocktails, and while doing so, change the colors of those infusions. I’ll get some help with the scientific explanation of this phenomenon, but we’re here to see the magic happen, so let’s start.

This won’t be the first time we’re using red cabbage to add color to a cocktail on our channel. We’ve made a Red Cabbage Justino with cachaca for an elevated Caipirinha. But calm down, Brazil, we’ve made the classic one as well, and it was delicious! This time we’ll infuse tequila with red cabbage, gin with pink rose buds and gin with butterfly pea blossoms. All three of our colorants contain a pigment called anthocyanin, which is basically what makes color changing cocktails, and this publication, possible.

Clear spirits is of course the way to go if you want to get the right color. I was experimenting with vodka as well, but it’s just too… one-dimensional. Gin & tequila add another layer of flavor, but you can of course try it out for yourself. I’m starting with the butterfly pea infused gin. For that you’ll need dried butterfly pea leaves and your preferred gin. I’m going with Tanqueray Nº Ten. This gin is infused with fresh whole grapefruits, limes and oranges, among other botanicals.

Blue Gin

● 250ml (8.5oz) Tanqueray Nº Ten Gin

● 1g butterfly pea leaves

Start by weighing out the butterfly pea leaves, crush it lightly with a muddler to increase the surface area, and then measure out the gin. Now add the ingredients to a jar, close the lid, give it a stir and leave to infuse at room temperature. The alcohol will start to leach out the color from the leaves immediately, but leave it to sit for about 2 hours. After that time, strain our colored gin through a cloth filter. And we don’t want to leave any color behind so squeeze it out of the filter - the most effective way is to use a potato ricer, especially if you make a bigger batch.

Now bottle, don’t forget to add a label, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful small bottle of blue gin. For our second colored spirit I’ll again be using gin, this time Bombay Sapphire. The bottle with Queen Victoria may look old school, but this gin didn’t hit the market until 1987. I’ll pair it with pink rose buds, to impart not just the color and a nice floral note.

Rose Gin

● 250ml (7.5oz) Bombay Sapphire Gin

● 2.5g dried pink rose buds

Again start by weighing out the colorant, this time dried pink rose buds, and muddle that as well. Same as before, the greater surface area means easier extraction by our gin. We’ll add the same amount of gin we used before, just keep in mind to avoid using a floral-forward gin since we’re already adding the rose buds. Again, stir to mix and leave to infuse at room temperature. Pink roses won’t turn this pink, but yellow-ish, and not nearly as intense as with butterfly pea flowers, so I’ll let this sit for 12 hours.

After that we again strain using a cloth filter. I prefer to use a muslin cloth, but a cheese cloth or even a clean kitchen towel would work as well. Squeeze out all the liquid once more, bottle it, and your second batch of a colored gin is done. And so we move on to the third and final infused spirit - to make the purple tequila you’ll need dehydrated red cabbage and of course, blanco tequila. I’m using Rooster Rojo.

Purple Tequila

● 250ml (7.5oz) Rooster Rojo Tequila

● 4g dried red cabbage

Just as before, combine the tequila with the colorant, wait 12 hours and then strain, squeeze & bottle. Also bonus points if you remember the Rooster Rojo tequila back from the first two Cocktail Time episodes! I love the vibrant purple color that we get from cabbage, just remember to make sure it’s labeled and you’re ready to start the magic journey of color changing cocktails. To understand why this happens I turned to a chemist, Darcy O’Neil from the YouTube channel Art of Drink!

If you want to check out his explanation it will be on the full episode on YouTube, but if you are someone that likes geeking out over interesting cocktail stuff, you have to check out Darcy’s YouTube channel, it’s a real fountain of information. Now for the cocktails, we’ll make a Color Changing Negroni, Gin & Tonic, and a Margarita. All simple and delicious, but we’ll need a small amount of an Acid Mix Solution to make the magic happen.

Acid Mix Solution

● 1g citric acid

● 1g malic acid

● 1g tartaric acid

● 50g water

It’s as easy as mixing these ingredients together until the acids are dissolved, and in case you don’t have all of these just use 3 grams of citric acid to make your solution. Also while you are making this, get some glasses chilling in the freezer, since we are now ready to make the cocktails, starting with the Negroni!

Color Changing Negroni

● 45mL (1.5oz) Blue Gin

● 30mL (1oz) Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto

● 30mL (1oz) Bianco Vermouth

● 5mL (>0.25oz) Acid Mix Solution

● 2 drops saline solution

● Grapefruit peel

Add your ingredients, with the exception of the Acid Mix Solution, to a chilled mixing glass, then fill it with ice and stir to chill and dilute. Now pour the cocktail over a clear ice cube and garnish with a grapefruit peel. Make sure it’s a long strip, and clean up the edges, since you’ll use it to stir the cocktail afterwards. Of course don’t forget to express the essential oils first, and for the visual effect of the color change, place the Acid Mix Solution on top of the drink.

Adding it like this gives your guest the option to enjoy the full visual effect right before enjoying the cocktail. Just make sure to stir everything again once you add your final ingredient. Cheers! Like Darcy explains on the full episode, the pH change is what causes the color change in the pigment of our gin, going from blue to a gentle pink,but with that we’re also adding a sour component to our Negroni, slightly taming its signature bitterness, making it more approachable to the masses. And it looks nice too, of course. A perfect summer version of the Italian classic.

Let’s move onto the next drink, and since we’ve been on a bit of a run with Gin Tonics on Cocktail Time lately, I thought we might as well take a look at another way to give it color, then make that color change.

Color Changing Gin & Tonic

● 60mL (2oz) Rose Gin

● 2 drops saline solution

● Tonic of your choice

● Lemon peel

To a chilled glass filled with ice add the Gin, saline solution, a lemon peel garnish and a straw. It might look like half of a drink, but remember - it’s about the wow effect. So to get the magic effect, add the tonic, I’m using the classic Indian tonic, but a mediterranean would work nicely too. Now use the straw to gently stir and enjoy the visuals! Once you’re done appreciating it with your eyes it’s time to smell and taste, cheers!

The cocktail has a citrus aroma, with floral notes in the forefront of the palate, but with the right choice of gin we made sure it’s not overwhelming. Beautiful, balanced, and refreshing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on color changing cocktails, but for now let’s make the color changing Tommy’s Margarita.

Color Changing Tommy’s Margarita

● 60mL (2oz) Purple Tequila

● 15mL (0.5oz) agave syrup

● 22.5mL (0.75oz) lime juice

● 2 drops saline solution

● Salt

Begin by rimming your serving glass with ice and set a big clear ice cube inside it to temper. Meanwhile add all but the lime juice into a chilled shaker, add ice and shake hard to chill and dilute. Now double strain the cocktail over the already mentioned clear ice block, with a side of lime juice. With that, the cocktail is ready to be enjoyed by the guest or you, of course. First enjoy the beautiful color as is, then pour in the lime juice and once again witness the magic of chemistry as the cocktail changes color from purple to pinkish red. Beautiful.

Once stirred you’re ready for the first sip. You’ll get plenty of citrus, just like with the classic Tommy’s Margarita, but here you’ll get a subtle vegetal note on the palate, which just highlights our blanco tequila. If you want to go all out on the presentational effect with this cocktail you can check out how to make Lime Juice Spheres, as shown in the Caipirinha episode, and stay tuned as next week we’re showcasing another cool & innovative cocktail technique, which I’m super excited about. See you then. Cheers!


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