Tales Cocktails Get the Butterfly Pea Blues

By Kelly Magyarics

A sure sign that butterfly pea powder is catching on among mixologists, several blue-hued drinks were spotted at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans. For instance, Empress 1908 Gin, a new gin colored with butterfly pea flower extract, set up a cocktail station in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone, where bartenders showcased it in several drinks.

Derived from the flowers of the butterfly pea plant, the extract can be infused into syrups and spirits. Butterfly pea works as a natural dye by interacting with the pH of other components in the cocktail; higher-acid ingredient cause a drink to turn from deep blue to lighter pink.

The gin, crafted in Canada by Victoria Distillers, was inspired by the tea program at the Fairmont Empress Hotel on Vancouver Island’s inner harbor, which opened in 1908. “The butterfly pea extract is such a unique ingredient that allows you to naturally color your cocktails in different shades of blue and pink,” says Empress 1908 Gin president Peter Hunt.

“Not only it is natural, but it does not distort the taste or the texture of cocktails,” Hunt says. “It’s a brand new range of possibilities for cocktails.”

Indeed, the team from Barmini by José Andrés in Washington, D.C. created the color-changing Rip Current cocktail for a Tales Spirited Dinner at the modern seafood restaurant Borgne. The drink was a reverse Divine Wind based on Mediterranean Gin Mare with butterfly pea extract.

Where did the inspiration for the Divine Wind come from? “We had a 1980’s Cocktails theme week at Barmini,” says Miguel Lancha, cocktail Innovator for Barmini’s parent company Think Food Group. Since the Kamikaze was one of those cocktails, the team took a historical approach to reimagining it.

“History says that Japan tried to invade Mongolia twice, but each time they did, an enormous typhoon would happen, keeping them from invading,“ Lancha says.” The Japanese thought those hurricanes were sent by the god (kami in Japanese) of the wind (kaze in Japanese) to protect the Mongolians. Kamikaze would later refer to the suicidal pilots, and then to the ’80s cocktail made with vodka, triple sec and lime juice.

The Divine Wind “is our magical, whimsical spin on the popular drink Kamikaze from the 1980s,” Lancha notes. “The butterfly pea tea has an intense blue color and gives it to the cocktail. But when you bring its pH down by adding acidity, like our clarified lime juice, to it, then it turns into a beautiful fuchsia-pink right in front of your eyes. It’s the wind changing the scenario.”

Here’s the full recipe for The Divine Wind.

2 oz. Chrysanthemum Shōchū
½ oz. Butterfly pea syrup
¼ oz. Triple sec
1 oz. Clarified lime juice

Combine chrysanthemum shōchū, butterfly pea syrup, and triple sec into a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe. After pouring into the coupe, pour in the clarified lime juice for the color-changing effect. Garnish with petals from 2 dianthus flowers.