Where to Find Those Color-Changing Cocktails You’ve Seen All Over Instagram
Bartenders around Philly are using the flower of a Southeast Asian plant to create bright, color-changing blue or purple drinks that are as pretty as they are delicious.
If you frequent Philly’s better bars — hell, if you have an Instagram account — you’ve probably seen bartenders mixing up drinks in purple and blue colors so bright that they seemingly can’t be found in nature. In fact, those colors come from teas and infusions made with the flowers of the butterfly pea, a plant that’s commonly used in both drinks and dishes across Southeast Asia.
With an earthy, subtle flavor, butterfly pea tea starts out bright blue — but a touch of acid from, say, lemon juice turns it a shocking purple, inspiring crafty bartenders to make vivid or color-changing drinks that are as unexpectedly pretty as they are delicious. Here are some of our favorite butterfly pea flower cocktails in Philly right now.
Vernick Coffee Bar, Center City
Okay, so this beautiful purple-blue-green drink isn’t technically a cocktail, but it’s too pretty (and ingenious) to ignore. The folks at Greg Vernick’s cafe in the Comcast Technology Center blend subtle, earthy butterfly pea teas with fine matcha and milk for the most eye-catching matcha latte you ever had.
Abe Fisher, Center City
While butterfly pea cocktails tend towards sweet and floral flavor profiles, the Second Rodeo at Abe Fisher goes in a decidedly different direction: the special flowers are infused straight into lemon juice, creating a bright magenta color. A dry shake (that means no ice) with bourbon, Lillet, grated horseradish and ginger, and an egg white gives the finished drink an opaque, muted purple hue with a layer of white foam on top. A garnish of grated dark rye bread (really) on top finished this punchy yet balanced beverage.
Cocktail wizard Mike Landers has taken butterfly pea tea to the next level with his latest technique using this trendy ingredient: rather than the instantaneous color change from blue to purple that happens when acid is added, freezing butterfly pea tea into ice cubes creates an extended color color change in drinks as they melt. Try it with the Harlequin, made with rum, mezcal, pineapple gum, orange cordial, and Guava Blonde ale from Harleysville-based Blueprint Brewing.
Saté Kampar, East Passyunk
In Malaysia, butterfly pea flowers are a common ingredient, infused in everything from drinks to desserts. Ange Branca’s Malaysian BYOB in South Philly highlights the flowers in a color-changing booze-free drink, the Chameleon Cooler — a tall tumbler of butterfly pea tea layered over lemongrass simple syrup and transformed top-down from blue to purple with a squeeze of lime.
PHS Pop-Up Garden, Graduate Hospital
What could make a butterfly pea cocktail even more perfect for summer sipping? Freeze it — which is what the Khyber crew has done with their Unicorn Mojito, available only at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s pop-up beer garden on South Street. The frosty blend of rum, mint simple syrup, and lime gets a bright lilac color from butterfly pea flowers and a little extra sparkle from a pinch of edible gold glitter on top.
Prohibition Taproom, Spring Arts
Pro Tap’s flower-powered Gemini Spaceship gets its bright purple hue from a combination of butterfly pea flower tea and lemon juice — and its kick from Tanqueray gin. Chamomile tea, orange oleo-saccharum, soda, and a pinch of blue edible glitter finish the drink.
Royal Boucherie, Old City
Nick Elmi’s French-inspired brasserie always keeps a handful of what they call “temperance cocktails” — drinks that are alcohol-free — on the menu. The Lavender Bow Tie, a blend of grapefruit, soda, and flowers (that’s where the butterfly pea coloring comes in). It’s delicious as is, but you can get it spiked with gin by request, too.
Manatawny Still Works, East Passyunk
Pick your poison — Three Bitches vodka or their Odd Fellow gin — and the bartenders at Manatawny’s South Philly tasting room will mix you up a fizzy, refreshing Cruel Summer with lavender syrup, lemon (for brightness and that purple hue), and soda.
Zavino, University City
If pastels are more your thing, head to Zavino’s bar west of the Schuylkill to sip on a Farfalle (that’s “butterfly” in Italian), a blend of silver tequila, fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices, agave, and a touch of butterfly simple syrup for a bracing, lilac-hued sip.
Art in the Age, Old City
The copper-topped bar in back of Art in the Age’s expansive home bar supply shop is serving a color-changing take on the Tom Collins thanks to butterfly pea tea ice cubes, which slowly turn their Meta Morph Collins, made with their house gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, and soda into a bright purple-pink drink.
Kari’s Tea Bar, Old City
Popping into the Bourse for a pick-me-up? Try the blue matcha latte at Kari’s, which combines butterfly pea flower powder, milk, and matcha for a creamy, subtle drink that’ll give you a gentle caffeine lift.