Cocktail Science: Colour Changes with Butterfly Pea Blossoms

6 days ago by in Cocktail Science Tagged: ,
Dried pea flower on white background

Butterfly Pea Blossoms are a natural way to add a fun and dynamic element to your cocktail experience. These blossoms hail from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia where they have been a part of traditional medicine for centuries and can be found as a natural die in many dishes and beverages. They’re also known as Asian Pigeonwings.

My first encounter with this flower was through Empress 1908 Gin, distilled in Victoria, BC in honour of the Empress Hotel. If you mix their gin with a citrus juice, like lemon or lime juice, the gin changes from a deep blue hue to a purple colour, the brightest of which deepens the more citrus is used.

While we were experimenting with cocktails at Bar 1912 in Calgary for the Cirque de Soleil show, Luzia, back in August and September, (I’ve been working with Bar 1912 since they opened their doors for the first time during the 2019 Calgary Stampede), we needed something with complementary bright colours and dreamy hues that would capture the imagination. Empress Gin came up in our ideation, but we also recalled seeing the blossoms available to make your own tea and tinctures. 

Butterfly Pea Blossoms became a part of a drink we called The Opening Act, incorporate butterfly pea blossom tea, Creme de Violette, lime juice and prosecco. When we launched the menu, the overall reception was fantastic. People loved the whole experience. Guests watched transfixed as their cocktail went from a darker blue to a beautiful purple/pink hue. This is due to pHbalance or acidity levels, which can affect the final colour of the drink to a royal purple or even a cotton candy pink. 

If you’re playing with your own butterfly pea blossom tea in your cocktail making adventures, try finding an element to your cocktail that guests can finish the drink themselves, like a plastic pipette to add in their own lemon juice, or an element you can add either tableside or at your home bar in front of their eyes. You can make the tea with either hot or cold water. Hot water obviously steeps a lot quicker and brings about the deep blue hue of the drink much faster. When mixing with other liquids, play with the concentration of your original tea. Butterfly pea blossoms don’t have a strong flavour, so you won’t need to worry about it being to “tea-y”, but the colour is quickly diluted when adding spirits and other liquids. You may also want to consider infusing your own clear spirit with the flower to help keep more of the colour. 

Butterfly Pea Blossoms can be found in special tea blends through David’s Tea or with the pure dried blossoms locally in Calgary at Oolong Tea House in Kensington.

Recipe:

My partners at Sound & Wood Events and I created the following cocktail for a engagement party last summer themed after a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Pixie Elixir
1 oz vodka-infused Butterfly Pea Blossom Vodka
0.5 oz simple syrup
1-2 oz prosecco
0.25 oz lemon juice
Shake vodka and simple syrup together in a cocktail shaker to chill. Fine strain in a chilled martini glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with plastic pipette filled with lemon juice. Guests add lemon juice to flavour and change colour before their eyes!