The Easy Way to Make Dazzling, Color-Changing Cocktails

Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy

Your first experience with a cocktail is looking at it. Whether you’re at home or in a cocktail bar, there’s nothing like a vivid, colorful drink to catch your eye. Over the last few years, blue drinks have been all over cocktail menus thanks to tasty blue Curaçao that’s a huge upgrade from earlier versions.

More recently, bartenders have fallen for the butterfly pea flower. On its own, water steeped with the flower is a rich, dark indigo. But the second you add citrus or tonic, it shifts to a light pink, giving you not only a range of colors to work with, but the opportunity to see it transform right in the glass.

Looking to replicate these stunning cocktails at home? You can go the route many bartenders do, and work with the butterfly pea flower itself. But there’s no shame in taking a slightly easier route: picking up a bottle of Empress 1908 Gin, which has the butterfly pea blossom already incorporated.

Empress 1908 Gin

Color-switching G&Ts are a no-fail party trick. Pour out a measure of gin over ice in each glass, top off with tonic, and watch the color instantly transform. And once you get other ingredients involved, you’ll see how varied the color can be. With green elements like muddled mint, the indigo looks almost blue; add citrus and bubbles, and it’s more like a rosy pink.

Easy: Purple ‘75

Carey Jones

Empress 1908 Gin isn’t just a gimmick; it also happens to be a tasty spirit in its own right. Like a London Dry gin, but with a real floral element, it shines in delicate drinks like the French 75, with not much more than lemon and bubbles. Thanks to the citrus, this drink is on the pinker side of the spectrum.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half Empress 1908, half an ounce fresh lemon juice, and half an ounce simple syrup. Shake until well-chilled, then strain into a flute. Top with two and a half ounces of sparkling wine and garnish with a small edible flower.

Intermediate: Cucumber Mint

Carey Jones

Here’s a drink that can take on two colors. Refreshing and bone-dry, it’s as simple as cucumber and mint, muddled in a glass, and topped with gin and soda. If you want to keep the drink dark purple, almost blue, serve as-is. Want something a little lighter in color and brighter in flavor? Add a lime wedge to the garnish, squeeze it in, and watch the color change in front of you.

Instructions: In the bottom of a tall glass, muddle a ¼-inch round of cucumber, then add five mint leaves and gently muddle again. Add ice, along with an ounce and a half of Empress 1908 and two ounces of club soda. Garnish with a big sprig of mint and a thin slice of cucumber, cut on the bias—and if you want to change the color, a wedge of lime.

Advanced: Gin Sour

Carey Jones

Adding egg white to cocktails lends them a silky, glossy texture, and an opaque quality that really sets off certain colors. In this classic sour, the gin takes on a soft violet hue that hints at the gentle floral character of the gin. An edible flower as garnish isn’t necessary, but doesn’t it look lovely?

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine two ounces of Empress 1908, an ounce of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, and one egg white. Shake very hard without ice; open shaker, add ice, and shake again until very well-chilled. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail coupe, and garnish with a small edible flower.