We like a good challenge, and welcome any chance to create custom Mixicles cubes for special events. A few months ago, we were presented with the opportunity to fashion a customized cube for the soft opening of The Hydration Station, a local business providing IV therapy. The ask was that the cube be blue.
You might be wondering, what's so challenging about that? Well, it turns out that the color blue is very rare in nature (credit to Jen's son for alerting her to this), and because we don't add anything artificial to Mixicles (nor do we add alcohol, so Blue curaçao was not an option), we had to come up with a way to color the cubes blue naturally.
If you are familiar with our regular flavor offerings, you might also be wondering why we didn't just use our Blueberry Lemon Basil cubes. That's because blueberries aren't actually blue, but deep purple, which is the color of anthocyanin, a pigment in the skin of blueberries. Now you know.
Jen started researching alternatives to synthetic food coloring and came across an article about butterfly pea flower tea. Made from a Southeast Asian flower, butterfly pea flower tea has a very subtle taste and can be used to naturally color food and drink blue. Bingo! Now we just had to source it. Jason thought to check Churchill's Fine Teas at Findlay Market, and sure enough, they had butterfly pea flower tea in stock.
Tea in hand, we started to think about which of our Mixicles flavors would be a good base for the cocktails we'd be serving at The Hydration Station's opening. We chose Elderflower Lemon Mint, one of the flavors in our Floral Collection. Its lovely pale hue would provide a neutral canvas for the blue tint of the butterfly pea flowers:
In the kitchen, we steeped the flowers in a mint simple syrup. The color was a gorgeous bright blue. But when we added the lemon juice we typically use to create our Elderflower Lemon Mint cubes, the mixture turned purple. This was when we realized that the color of butterfly pea flowers changes from blue to purple when it comes in contact with an acidic ingredient. Cool effect, but not what we were looking for. (Fun fact: the color will change to pink when an ingredient with a high pH is added.)
Refusing to give up, Jason began searching for a solution. The answer was lemon balm, a lemon-scented herb that hails from the same family as mint. Once we swapped out the lemon juice for this herb, we were good to go.
In addition to enjoying a good challenge (and food chemistry), we like to go the extra mile and add a special touch for our customers whenever possible. In this instance, Jen thought to freeze a single butterfly pea flower in each cube:
Now we just had to decide what to mix the cubes with. We frequently pair Elderflower Lemon Mint Mixicles with either vodka or bourbon (when mixed with the latter, the drink tastes like a good mint julep). But to figure out what proof bourbon to use so the drink wouldn't look brownish, we had to do some experimenting and taste testing:
Tough job, we know.
In the course of our experimentation, we discovered that adding sparkling wine to the vodka-based drink would turn it purple. But we really loved the effervescence it provided. So, for The Hydration Station event, we kept the cubes and vodka separate from the sparkling wine until it was time to pour and serve, called the drink "Sparkling IVy" (get it?), and then talked up the cool color-changing effect. People loved it.
Because the event took place the night before the rescheduled 2020 Kentucky Derby, and because the owner of The Hydration Station loves bourbon, we also served a cocktail we named the "Blue Derby." It consisted of one Elderflower Lemon Mint cube (infused with butterfly pea flower tea) topped with an ounce and a half of bourbon (we used Four Roses® - 80 proof, which didn't overpower the delicate flavor of the cube or turn the drink a muddy brown color).
The flavor base of both cocktails we crafted for The Hydration Station's soft opening is identical to the flavor you'd get using our Elderflower Lemon Mint cubes. So if you don't care about the color of your drinks being blue, just skip the addition of the butterfly pea flowers. On the other hand, using the flowers makes for a fun and festive Hanukkah cocktail. L'Chaim!
- 1 Elderflower Lemon Mint Mixicles® cube
- 1 ounce vodka
- Sparkling wine, brut preferred
- Butterfly pea flower tea (optional)
Place the Mixicles® cube in a champagne flute. Add the vodka and then fill the flute with sparkling wine. Sprinkle with dried butterfly pea flowers if desired.