3 Ways to Make an Ultra Violet Cocktail
2018's hottest color never tasted so good.
As it has annually since 2000, Pantone named its color of the year, and this year’s is a dramatic purple the company has dubbed Ultra Violet.
You’ll be seeing lots of this shade on clothes, walls and furniture this year, but incorporating it into food and drink is a bit harder — there aren’t many edible items out there in vibrant purple. But we found a few exceptions, along with a trio of expert bartenders around the country to share their recipes for using them. Try these unique ingredients, and you’ll be drinking in 2018’s hottest hue.
First off: ube. A species of yam that can range from lavender to Barney the Dinosaur in color, ube’s mild, nutty sweetness has long been popular in desserts in the Philippines, and it’s been super-trendy in American food culture for a couple years now. But bartender Cari Hah discovered that trying to start from scratch with ube is not the best option when she set out to use it in a cocktail at Big Bar, the bar she manages in Los Angeles. “I originally went out and bought ube and tried to roast them myself. No. It’s just impossible,” she says. Instead, she turns to ube extract, the same secret Filipino bakers use for consistent color and flavor, which is widely available online and at Southeast Asian-focused markets nationwide.
“We do whimsical, fun twists on classic cocktails at Big Bar, and this one is based on a Ramos Gin Fizz,” Hah says of her Grimace’s Day Off recipe. “The aromatics of the gin are a good counterpoint and balancing act with the flavors of the ube. It’s a ‘dessert’ cocktail, but it’s well-balanced and not too sweet.” The rich drink also includes splashes of hazelnut and vanilla liqueurs, which both play off notes found in ube, and it’s garnished with an adorable ube-striped cookie stick.
Another trendy purple ingredient of late is butterfly pea flowers. These blossoms, native to Southeast Asia, don’t really have much flavor of their own, but they’ll tint most any liquid a bright blue color that instantly turns purple when it comes in contact with an acid like citrus juice. You can find dried flowers packaged as butterfly pea tea, or buy concentrated extracts that can dye a whole drink with just a drop or two.
Bartenders have come up with all kinds of clever ways to use butterfly pea to make cocktails that seem to magically change color, and in Megan Deschaine’s Disco Sour, blue-tinged ice slowly melts into a lemony pisco cocktail that gradually turns bright purple. A longtime bartender who worked in Boulder, Colo., and Baltimore, before moving to her current home of Charleston, S.C., Deschaine is today bar manager at The Macintosh.
Created at Charleston’s 492 (where Deschaine worked previously), the Disco Sour is a twist on a Pisco Sour, a classic cocktail made with an unaged grape brandy called pisco that’s made in Chile and Peru. Deschaine admits that she came up with the drink’s name before its list of ingredients. “I dated a guy from Chile for four years and had several opportunities to visit. I love the culture and food and drink,” she says. “I’m also a huge fan of dad jokes and puns. I’ll often think of a funny name first and come up with the drink later. The Disco Sour was definitely one of those.” Besides its butterfly pea color-changing trick, the drink also incorporates falernum, a lime, almond and spice liqueur popular in tiki cocktails.
But not all purple cocktail ingredients are new behind the bar. At the beginning of the 20th century, mixologists went crazy for creme de violette, a French liqueur flavored (and colored) with violet petals that pairs nicely with Champagne or gin and makes for bluish-purple beverages like the classic Aviation. The obscure liqueur nearly disappeared in the intervening century, but today there are several new and historic brands available. “It’s very strong in flavor, so you don’t need to use a whole lot of it,” says Sarah Harrington, bar manager at Big Orange in Little Rock, Ark. “You can almost use it like bitters — like salt & pepper for a cocktail. It’s great to add to a Margarita, a Mojito, a Daiquiri.”
Harrington’s only been working behind the bar for three years, but she’s been creating her own original recipes that whole time, and The Artist is a pleasingly purple drink that’s still strong and boozy and was one of her first creations. “I started with a classic Martini,” she says. “It’s a good cocktail, but for me it’s a bit bitter.” Harrington swapped half the dry vermouth in a Martini for sweet and floral creme de violette, and the other half for blanc vermouth, which shares similar botanical notes with the dry style but tastes a bit sweeter.
So why is purple having a moment behind the bar right now? Deschaine says it’s all about the exotic: “Purple’s not a naturally occurring color in most cases in food and drinks, and it’s always exciting when you see something like that out of context.” Both Hah and Harrington also cite the recent popularity of blue drinks as the source of the trend. “I know that blue Curacao was really popular for a long time, but for me personally, I like to learn toward ingredients that aren’t artificially colored,” Harrington says, “and the most vibrant natural color you can get in a cocktail easily is purple.”
But Hah’s metaphysical guess is probably the real truth: “Why purple? Prince, God rest his soul.”
Grimace’s Day Off
By Cari Hah | Big Bar | Los Angeles
- 1.5 oz. Plymouth Gin
- .75 tsp Luxardo Angioletto Hazelnut Liqueur (or other hazelnut liqueur)
- .75 tsp. Giffard Vanille de Madagascar Liqueur (or other vanilla liqueur)
- .75 oz. simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
- .5 oz. heavy cream
Add all the ingredients except the club soda to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake hard, and then strain the drink into one half of the shaker, discarding the ice. Reseal the shaker and shake again, without ice. (This helps create a nice fluffy layer of foam on top of the drink without over-diluting it.) Add the club soda to a highball glass and slowly pour the drink into it, until the foam on top rises slightly above the rim of the glass. Garnish with a Superstix Ube Wafer Stick cookie.
By Megan Deschaine | 492 | Charleston, S.C.
- 1 oz. Butterfly pea flower extract, such as B’lure
- 1 qt. water
- 1.5 oz Pisco
- .75 oz. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum Liqueur
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- .5 oz. rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
- orange twist and strawberry (for garnish)
Stir together the butterfly pea flower extract and water (the mixture should be bright blue). Pour into large ice cube molds and freeze overnight or until completely solid.
Place 2 or 3 blue ice cubes into a rocks glass along with an orange twist and a fresh strawberry on a cocktail pick. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a small carafe. To serve, pour the contents of the carafe into the rocks glass; the drink will change from blue to purple as the ice melts.
By Sarah Harrington | Big Orange | Little Rock, Ark.
- 2 oz. Hayman's London Dry Gin
- .5 oz. Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette Liqueur
- .5 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambery
- 1 dash orange bitters
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a coupe glass.