If you noticed a surge of purple cocktails while you were out this spring, first of all, you’re not alone—and second, they might have been made with butterfly pea flower tea. Ray Isle, Food & Wine’s executive wine and spirits editor, says the trendy ingredient (made from the flower of the Clitoria ternatea plant) turns from blue to purple when it mixes with citric acid, creating gorgeous color-changing drinks. While the idea might sound difficult to pull off at first pass, in a recent video, Isle shows us how to make not one, but three different purple drinks. It’s an easy way to impress your guests when you’re entertaining, and the tea works just as well in a cocktail as it does in a non-alcoholic drink. Check out some of Isle's favorites below:
Isle says this drink is kind of a variation on a gin & tonic. After muddling basil leaves and lime juice in a shaker, you add ice, gin, Italicus Rosolio (an aromatic Italian apéritif, with the flavor of bergamot oranges and roses) and freshly squeezed cucumber juice—then, mix it up. (Isle explains that with cocktails, you’ll typically shake drinks that have fruit juices in them, and stir drinks that are just straight alcohol.) The butterfly pea flower tea comes in at the end as a one-ounce floater, initially appearing blue before turning purple as it interacts with the drink more. Add some basil and rosemary for garnish, and you’re all set. It’s herbal, sweet, and tart—not to mention, the purple and green color scheme is pretty cool.
Butterfly pea flower tea doesn’t have to be reserved for cocktails, either; for the second drink, Isle shows us how to dress up store-bought lemonade. (Grab one with high juice content, for the citric acid color-changing effect.) He makes the butterfly pea flower tea into blue ice cubes, which turn the drink a beautiful pastel purple color once you pour the lemonade on them. Isle says the combination is basically an Arnold Palmer—just “purple, gorgeous, and weird.”
Butterfly pea flower tea also comes in an extract form, which you can buy on Amazon—Isle uses B'lure. This allows you to change the color of drinks like the French 75, which Isle loves. (The cocktail was named after the cannons the French used during WWI, because it's powerful.) After combining simple syrup, gin, and lemon juice in a shaker, Isle adds the mixture to a Champagne flute and pours a two-ounce Champagne floater on top. A few drops (as many as you want) of the extract for the finishing touch turns the drink purple without really changing the taste.
To buy: Butterfly Pea Flower Tea Extract; $18 at amazon.com