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  • Writer's pictureAlex Barbatsis

Get Natural Vibrant Colors in Your Cocktails

Purple Rain Wayofthewong Bourbon Purple cocktail carrot Colors Cheers "Yum City" orgeat drinks
Purple Rain. Photo by Jenn Wong @wayofthewong

Blue Curacao is making a comeback. You can blame it on Instagram, most likely feeding people’s need to take a picture of something pretty to post. There’s nothing wrong with a gorgeously colored drink. When it’s from a hyper amount of food coloring however, something disconnects receptors in my brain that connects “pretty” and “yummy.”

Can a cocktail have a beautiful color and be natural, or are we just at the whim of butterfly pea flower extract and neon liqueurs?

The answer is of course. Nature is full of beautiful colors that can be used in drinks. Here are my tips to making a pretty cocktail with natural produce.

1- Highlight with Light Spirits

Clear spirits will clear the way for colors. For example, snap peas lend a light grassy aroma and nutty flavor to a cocktail along with a lovely green hue. If you’re using a dark spirit like an aged rum, you might not be blocking the lighter flavors and the color you want. Maybe try a Cuban-style light rum to bring out more of the earthy flavors and bring the earth green color to the forefront.

2- Muddle

In the new world of immersion circulators, lab grade rotovaps, and countertop centrifuges, there’s something to be said for a classic muddle. Raspberries and Cucumbers are delicate flavors and while they do well using all the technology that is cost prohibitive for most bars, they also crush very easily under a sturdy muddler. This Bad Ass Muddler from Cocktail Kingdom is $12.99, is dishwasher safe, and also will work as a defense tool in a pinch. Raspberries and too rowdy patrons won’t stand a chance against it.

3- Immersion Circulator

Ah the duality of man. Just because something is new doesn’t mean we should fear it. With immersion circulators selling for $100, the technology is now affordable. Using this Bain Marie heated bath device at low temps is a great way to control consistency for your syrups and infusion. Works great for thicker fruits like plums and strawberries. Check out Chef Steps for how to use an immersion circulator.

4- Enhance with similar colors

Heritage vegetables have brilliant colors. We used Heritage purple carrots in a cocktail, but for me, a little carrot juice goes a long way. By pairing the fresh purple carrot juice with a Violet liqueur, we were able to keep the vibrant purple color and enhance the sweet, peppery flavor of the carrot by pairing it with the flowery sweetness of the violet liqueur. (See Recipe Below)

5- Go to your local farmers market

If a fruit or vegetable visually stands out to you at the farmer market, it will probably visually stand out in a cocktail. The best people to talk to about produce are the people who grow it. At your local farmers market, you can ask questions directly to the farmers. You can often sample seasonal produce to find out what something tastes and smells like and use that to create new cocktails in your head.

These tips will help you make your pretty drinks taste yummy without sacrificing quality. Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying some Negronis; a lush red cocktail, stunningly tinted with various red compound chemicals. Again, the duality of man knows no bounds. Cheers!

Purple Rain:

1.5 oz Bourbon

0.5 oz Creme de Violette (Violette Liqueur)

0.75 oz Orgeat

0.75 oz Lemon Juice

0.25 oz Heritage Purple Carrot Juice (a little goes a long way)

Add All ingredients to a shaking tin, shake long and hard with ice, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an expressed lemon peel.

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