Color-changing cocktails have been taking over social media by storm. Seeing a dark blue colored cocktail turning bright pink is quite amazing to witness.
Some creations even do color-layering, resulting in even more spectacular drinks. While one could think this is rocket science, it's actually not.
I'm showing you how you can use a simple ingredient that can turn your next cocktail, lemonade, or long drink into a piece of magic.
To do this, we need the flower of a plant called the butterfly pea. Traditionally this flower is used to create a dark blue tea. Butterfly pea tea is a super tasty and healthy drink.
However, we're doing a syrup of the butterfly flower instead. That syrup is perfect for adding to drinks and cocktails of all kinds.
The Butterfly Pea Flower
The scientifically correct name for the butterfly pea is Clitoria Ternatea. Its origin is in Asia, where it is also known as Asian pigeonwings or blue pea.
However, over the years, the name butterfly pea became more common. And I also find it the most catchy one, which is why I stick to that term.
In Southeast Asia, butterfly pea has been used for brewing tea and as a natural food coloring for a long time already.
In India, it is even considered a holy flower. Hindi often use it for offerings to an image of a god, the so-called puja rituals. So what is the secret that makes this flower so famous?
What the Butterfly Pea Flower is good for
Besides being a mood enhancer, the butterfly pea flower provides several health benefits. For instance, stress relief, lower anxiety, reduced fatigue and raised energy levels.
Due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, Spas and massage parlors often serve the tea from the blue flower after a treatment.
How does Butterfly Pea Tea taste?
When used in tea or syrup, it has a very subtle yet earthy flavor with wooden notes, similar to green teas. Overall, it's relatively neutral and won't affect the taste of your drink overly much.
In Northern Thailand, they have a recipe called Nam Dok Anchan: butterfly pea flower tea mixed with honey and (usually) a lemon on the side.
This drink can be served hot or cold and is quite common as a welcome drink in hotels. It's also often served after relaxing Thai massages.
I had my first butterfly pea tea in a small tea house in Chiang Mai. They served lemon juice with the tea that I could pour myself. And that's where the magic came in.
I could see the color changing from dark blue to pink. So how does the drink alter its color?
The science behind this color-changing syrup
The discoloring effect is caused by changing the pH. By adding acidic ingredients, like lemon juice, to cocktails, lemonade, to tea made with butterfly peas, they will change their color from a dark blue to pink.
But you can also achieve other shades. Depending on the pH, the color can range from pink, violet, blue, green, to yellow.
For those interested in chemistry reading this, the blue color indicates a pH of 7. By increasing the acidic level, the color will turn to violet at pH 4 and ultimately pink at pH 1.
If you do not increase the acidity but create o more alkaline solutions, the color can turn green at pH 8, and yellow at pH 11.
You won't see butterfly pea drinks in green or yellow very often as the necessary alkaline solutions are hard to achieve with edible ingredients.
How to make your own Butterfly Pea Flower syrup
To make the syrup, you need a good amount of butterfly pea flowers. If you happen to be in Thailand, you can get them quite easily and for an unbeatable price.
Especially in the northern cities like Chiang Mai, you can get 500 grams of dried flowers for a few dollars. But since I have to assume that most of you aren't currently in Chiang Mai, you can also buy them online. Here are some options.
Apart from the flowers, there's not much you need to create the magical syrup. So here's the recipe.
- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup White granulated sugar
- 10 - 15 pcs Dried butterfly pea flowers
- Add water, butterfly pea flowers, and sugar to a pot. Turn on medium heat and bring it to a boil. The amount of flowers you need is equal to other loose teas.
- Once the sugar has dissolved completely, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.
- Pour the cooled-down syrup into a jar or syrup bottle and filter out any residue of the flowers with the help of a fine-mesh strainer or, even better, with a tea filter bag.
- Keep the syrup refrigerated until you want to use it.
- Enjoy your homemade color-changing drinks.