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.
At Dream Downtown, located across the street from Chelsea Market in New York City, you’ll want to make a beeline for Megu. Descend an infinity-mirrored staircase into this inventive restaurant located just below Dream Downtown that features creative high-end Japanese cuisine and cocktails. Here you’ll find an ambiance awash in shades of purple that range from violet to magenta to mulberry. Enjoy a playful selection of menu items, like edamame lollipops and crispy brussel sprouts, before saying "sweet dreams" in your hotel room up above.
Aria Hotel Budapest
At Aria Hotel Budapest, many of the rooms delight discerning guests with playful pops of violet, fuchsia and orchid. Window treatments, headboards, even tabletops, burst with refreshing shades of purple at this musically-inspired boutique hotel. Each of the 49 guestrooms honors a world-famous musician or composer, from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis. Every room is artfully designed and decorated with signature colors to capture the emotions associated with different styles of music, including jazz, classical, opera and contemporary.
Kimpton EPIC Miami
One step inside the inviting LILT Lounge at the Kimpton EPIC Hotel in downtown Miami and you’ll find yourself immersed in a sea of violets, fuchsias and purples. The seductive cocktail lounge offers a bold, colorful escape from the club scene. Feel the glow of the ultra violet lighting as you sip cocktails, like the delightfully fresh, Lavender Mule. Enjoy pops of color emanating from the purple fabric chairs and the backlit circular bar, even the purple swirl wall paneling.
At YOTEL, the signature color is purple, so expect to see all shades of this enchanting hue across their seven micro hotel properties, including YOTEL Boston, which opened in Boston’s Seaport in June. Violets and purples permeate guest rooms (known as cabins), mood lighting and accents in common spaces. Even outdoor signage welcomes guests with brightly-colored violet neon, beckoning guests in from the street for an experience that combines luxury essentials, like upscale toiletries, with cleverly designed small spaces.
The Mayton Inn
The Mayton Inn, a Georgian-style boutique hotel in historic downtown Cary, North Carolina, boasts a signature color palette alive with blues, purples and reds. Book a stay in the King Suite where you’ll luxuriate in mauves and periwinkles across elegant linens and custom-designed window treatments. Even the walls are painted a sophisticated shade of purple. Relax and unwind at the in-house spa, Tonic Remedies, before settling in for the night with individual white noise control in every room.
Hotel Le Marais
In New Orleans, book a stay at Hotel Le Marais, a hip boutique hotel situated in the French Quarter. Here you’ll find a delightful mix of Big Easy charm, thanks to gas lamps, leafy foliage and plantation shutters, and chic sophistication. Inside, brightly colored oversize armchairs invite travelers to sit and stay awhile. Outside, a saltwater pool set quietly in a serene brick courtyard complete with violet-hued chair cushions and mood lighting serves as a relaxing oasis, far from Bourbon Street revelers.
Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka
At Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka in Moscow, many of the interior spaces are beautified by the color purple. From the first steps into the hotel lobby, guests are greeted by bright pops of violet and fuchsia, which dominate the front desk area. Even the Junior Suite Deluxe boasts jewel tone accents in deep shades of violet and indigo. Enjoy a relaxing swim in the indoor pool, a steam bath or a massage before exploring Moscow’s historic Basmanny district just outside the doors of the hotel.
Harrah's Resort Southern California
You may want to stay inside at Harrah’s Resort Southern California thanks to an on-site brewery, a lazy river and wellness-inspired rooms with yoga mats and vitamin C infused showers, but you’ll need to go outside to delight in the hotel’s exterior bathed in violet light. Every night, this oasis in San Diego’s North County inland region lights up as a beacon, drawing travelers into Funner, California, a brand new town with only one hotel and a mayor named David Hasselhoff.
At Carlisle Bay, a luxury resort in Antigua, make time to browse the ultra-modern library when not frolicking in the turquoise waters or relaxing under the palm trees. The stylish library is wired with fiber-optic mood lighting that changes colors depending on the time of day. In the morning, a cool blue hue permeates the library, while a fun ultraviolet glow takes over in the evenings. The library features a curated selection of captivating beach reads in a space that is both contemporary and comfortable.
At Sanderson London, a luxury boutique hotel, stop in for a drink or two at Purple Bar, an intimate lounge that’s quickly become a favorite gathering spot in London’s West End. Sip cocktails and people-watch amongst silk opera curtains, etched Venetian mirrors and a sophisticated pantone-inspired palette of violets, lavenders and purples. Feeling creative? Sign up for Cocktail Heaven, a masterclass designed for first-timers taught by London’s top mixologists. Students will learn the ins and outs of crafting innovative 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)
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.