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This strange brew changes color (and is delicious)
This strange brew changes color (and is delicious)
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Abracadabra! How to Make a Magical Drink

Color me shocked

Jonathan Lind is a NYC-based bartender, founding Bar Director at Crown Shy, and has worked at celebrated establishments like Eleven Madison Park.

March 28, 2023 7:56 pm

Gather round, ye Wondercade reader, and prepare to be amazed! Or at least intoxicated. I bring to you potions and tinctures! Spells and incantations! Tales to amaze and spectacles to confound! Just kidding, we’re gonna make a drink, but since this is the Magical Food + Drink Issue, I figured I’d lean into it.

When I was a kid I bought one of those all-in-one magic kits — card tricks, collapsible wand, the works. I didn’t learn a single trick. I opened the kit and ran around the house waving the wand around like a lunatic, but I didn’t apply myself to the craft. Though there is one aspect of the magical arts that I did eventually thrive in: POTIONS! A splash of this, a dash of that, stir counterclockwise and voilà!

Today we’re gonna play with one of the more popular magical items you see in the cocktail world these days: butterfly pea flower. Now, before you start screaming “umm, what about liquid nitrogen?” and “where’s the dry ice, Lind?!” please know that all that stuff is dangerous, and I’ll have no part in home drink enthusiasts hurting themselves.

Perhaps you’ve already heard about the wild and wonderful powers of butterfly pea flower. Perhaps you’ve seen it used at your local cocktail haunt. Perhaps you’ve been entranced by people using it on social media. (Including Neil himself!) And perhaps you’re now asking 2 questions: What is it? And how do you use it?

In short, it’s a flower (Clitoria ternatea, for you botanists) that, when in the presence of acid, will change from a vibrant blue to a lovely shade of lavender. Folks in Southeast Asia have been brewing this indigenous flower into a tea for hundreds of years. Similar to other herbal teas, butterfly pea flower tea (sometimes referred to as blue tea) is rich in antioxidants and linked with all manner of health benefits. It’s fairly neutral in flavor — similar to a mild green tea — and naturally caffeine free.

As to the question of what to do with it, the answer is, whatever you want! The simplest use is to infuse a bottle of vodka or gin with it…imagine pouring a bright blue vodka and soda. Sounds fun, right? But wait, there’s more! Squeeze a lime into the drink and watch as its juice turns the top layer of the drink purple!

Pouring a blue vodka and soda, and changing it into a purple vodka and soda is a pretty neat trick — but this is Wondercade…so let’s raise the stakes a bit, shall we?

This drink is all about the color — and the change of color. Because the earthy flavors of the butterfly pea flower meld nicely with the grassy notes of agave, I’m using tequila as my spirit. But this drink works just as well with vodka, gin, white rum or any white spirit. For a non-alcoholic version, just omit the spirits, and double down on the lime juice and butterfly pea flower syrup!

Jonathan Lind's Butterfly Swizzle

Servings: 1 drink

Copy Ingredients

  • 1 oz. butterfly pea flower syrup (recipe below)
  •       – 2 tsp. butterfly pea flower
  •       – 8 oz. hot water
  •       – 8 oz. white sugar
  • 1½ oz. blanco tequila
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • Splash of soda water

Copy Directions

  • Butterfly Pea Flower Simple Syrup
    1. Add butterfly pea flower to hot water. Allow to steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain tea to remove flower particles.

    2. Combine white sugar into the tea and stir until fully incorporated. 

    3. Once the syrup is done, bottle it and store in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. 

    4. NOTE: This recipe uses fresh flowers, but you can buy a powdered version here. If you go with powdered, cut back a bit on the pea flower — to a single teaspoon — as it’s a much denser representation of the flower. 

  • Butterfly Swizzle Cocktail
    1. Add tequila and lime juice to a highball glass full of ice. Crushed if you have it. Give the contents of your highball a stir, as you want to chill the tequila and lime juice as much as possible. Add more ice to your glass so it’s completely full (we’re going for a bit of a sno-cone effect).

    2. Grab your syrup from the fridge. Good magic is as much showmanship as wizardry, so make sure your audience gets a look at the vibrant blue of your syrup. Measure out an ounce, and slowly drizzle it over the top of your drink. Your guests will be transfixed as the syrup sinks to the bottom of the glass, slowly shifting from blue to lavender. 

    3. Top with soda and stir to complete the transformation, and enjoy!

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