Purple Gin 101: Everything You Need to Know

If you want to know the secret to color-changing cocktails, meet purple gin! Made from butterfly pea flower, this brilliantly colorful spirit is a fun addition to gin cocktails.

A purple cocktail sits in front of a bottle of Empress Gin.

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Some things we accept as true, and gin being clear is one of those. But there’s a modern gin that’s purple in color. 

You’ve likely encountered purple gin if you’ve ordered purple or color-changing cocktails at a restaurant or bar, which have been all the rage for a few years. 

Some types of this violet-hued spirit, such as the brand Empress Gin, turn bright pink when it meets acidic citrus, producing a gorgeous, magical effect in a cocktail as you can see the color change before your eyes.

But not all purple gins are created equal, and some don’t offer this color-changing effect though they do bring lots of botanical flavor to the table. Let’s get to know this vibrant spirit!

What is purple gin?

Purple gin is exactly what it sounds like: herbal gin with a purple color. The hue can come from infusing violets, butterfly pea flowers, hibiscus buds, lilacs or lavender. 

Butterfly pea flower gins offer a color-changing effect. When butterfly pea flower gin meets citrus elements, the acidity turns the liquid from its dark purple-blue color to bright hot pink. This remarkable presentation is incredibly fun for a Halloween cocktail.

This color-changing effect is a favorite of bartenders and home mixologists alike, but other purple gins are a fun upgrade from traditional gin. 

Purple gin is different from other purple spirits like crème de violette, which is a violet liqueur. Crème de violette cocktails are floral and bright, but it’s a liqueur not a spirit like gin.

More spirit guides: Coffee LiqueurIrish WhiskeyChambordBaileys

A hand pours blue gin from a metal cocktail jigger into a glass of pale yellow liquid and ice.

Why you’ll love purple gin

Color and fragrance are a great way to add a rich sensory experience beyond flavor. The floral elements of purple gin add to the art of the cocktail. 

  • You can use it in cocktails the same way you’d use regular gin.
  • Watching the butterfly pea gin change colors will be a wow factor that will impress all your friends!
  • Purple is a color you rarely see in food and drinks, so try it as a fun upgrade from plain gin. 

Types of purple gin

Several types of purple gin are available on the market but not all are made from the infusion of butterfly pea blossom, so they won’t all change color. They are often made from unusual botanicals, not artificial dyes. 

Here’s a look at gins made with floral notes from other purple ingredients:

  • Butterfly pea gin: Known for its distinct indigo hue, Empress 1908 Gin is an example of gin made with the blossoms of the butterfly pea plant.
  • Violet gin: This lightly colored purple gin is colored with parma violet blossoms, such as Whitley Neill Parma Violet Gin. You can also make your own parma violet gin.
  • Hibiscus gin: Other gins infuse hibiscus flowers, such as McQueen and the Violet Fog Ultra Violet Edition.
  • Lavender gin: Lavender flowers yield a purple color as well. One such gin is Purple Daze Gin from Idlewild Spirits.
  • Lilac gin: Another floral favorite is the lilac flower, which has a delicate aroma. Try it in Black Button Lilac Gin or make your own lilac liqueur
A bottle of blue Empress Gin on a white background.

Empress 1908 Gin

Empress 1908 Gin is the best-known of purple gins, as it was the first on the market. Distilled and bottled in Canada, this aromatic gin has a stunning indigo color.

This Canadian gin is made by adding the exotic butterfly pea blossom and their signature black tea blend served at the legendary Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, which is the inspiration behind the bottle.

Empress Gin’s flavor starts with the traditional citrus notes of gin, a perfect base. It also offers an elegant floral note, warmth and earthiness thanks to the butterfly pea flower, as well as a hint of black tea and notes of juniper berries, grapefruit peel, coriander seed, cinnamon bark, rose petal and ginger root.

Empress Gin is stirred into a drink with a purple color transformation.

What is butterfly pea?

Butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea) — also known as blue pea, bluebellvine and Asian pigeonwings — is a wildflower vine that ranges in color from pale blue to bright purple.

According to North Carolina State University, butterfly pea is a perennial originating in Africa and eastern Asia.

When these edible flowers are dried, they can be used to make tea or ground into butterfly pea powder.The flowers can also be infused in alcohol to turn it purple.

Substitute for purple gin

You have a few options if you can’t find purple gin.

  • Infuse your own purple gin. Pour your favorite gin over dried flowers such as lavender, violets, butterfly pea blossoms or hibiscus flowers. Store in an airtight container, giving it a shake every couple of days for two weeks — or until it reaches your desired purple color.
  • Use purple simple syrup. Try making a bright lavender simple syrup or butterfly pea syrup and using it in a cocktail. You could also use another edible flower like lilacs, violets or hibiscus. 
  • Add butterfly pea flower extract. A few drops of butterfly pea flower extract adds the same effect as Empress Gin, but you can use it with other clear spirits such as rum, tequila or vodka.
  • Use food coloring. Add a single drop of purple food coloring to your drink. (Or one drop of red and one drop of blue.) Add more as you like. Sure, they are artificial colors but they get the same effect across. 

How to store purple gin

Like storing any spirit, storing purple gin away from sunlight is best.

With purple gin, the purple color is more susceptible to fading, so be sure to store it in a cool, dark place.

Learn more about how to store alcohol properly.

a top view and closeup of the amortentia potion cocktail recipe from harry potter
Amortentia Cocktail

FAQ

What gin turns drinks purple?

Gin made with butterfly pea flowers, such as Empress 1908 Gin, is a purple gin. When the butterfly pea flower infusion meets acidic citrus, like lemon juice or lime juice, the drink turns a vibrant pink color.

Why is Empress Gin purple?

Empress 1908 Gin is made with the dried blossoms of the butterfly pea plant, a purple wildflower.

What does Empress Gin taste like?

The flavor of Empress 1908 Gin has warmth and earthiness thanks to the butterfly pea flower which also turns it purple. It also has a hint of black tea and notes of juniper, grapefruit zest, coriander, cinnamon, rose petal and ginger root.

Purple gin cocktails

The balancing act of botanicals used to make these purple bottles is a joy to mix with. Try any of these unique gins with natural indigo color in your favorite gin cocktails. 

If you have a favorite cocktail creation with purple gin, please share it below in the comments! 

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