Surprise your Halloween guests with this wild, color changing drink! It looks so artificial, but couldn’t be more natural. Read the secrets how you can create this crazy concoction with safe chemistry of everyday life and common pantry items!
Tips for making the drink
Actually, if you are precise, this drink contains six ingredients. However, since usually water is not counted as ingredient I dare to publish this recipe here in my blog. You are allowed to complain.
I don’t want to go deeper into boring chemistry here but just say that I take advantage of the fact that the color of red cabbage changes with pH, so depending how acidic or alkaline the solution is.
First I prepare extract from red cabbage and create a blue-colored alkaline solution. Then I add the alkaline solution to almost colorless acidic solution where the red cabbage creates bright pink color. Baking soda is the alkali here and lemon or lime juice the acid. It’s as simple and natural as that! You really don’t need anything artificial to create fascinating stuff.
Even this drink is very easy to make, you might want to go through the preparation process before you make the beverage for your guests. So, let’s take a closer look how to make this peculiar potion:
First, create the red cabbage extract. Chop 8 oz (230 g) red cabbage. Place the chopped cabbage in a large saucepan and pour 4 cups (950 ml) boiling water over it.
Cover, and let stand 15 minutes. Pour the mixture through a sieve into another, clean saucepan. Use the leftover red cabbage for another purpose (see the tip in the end of the post).
Create the alkaline solution by adding 1 teaspoon baking soda to the red cabbage extract and mix well.
The color should turn bright blue.
To make one serving of the drink, pour 2 tablespoons blue, alkaline solution into a small measuring cup or schnapps glass — where you have glued a symbol of skull and bones or something funny. This part you can do beforehand and store the filled measuring cups in the fridge until serving.
Create the acidic solution by pouring 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice into a clean glass. Add 1 teaspoon lime or orange stevia crystals. Mix well and let the crystals dissolve properly.
Pour in the sparkling water. Mix if needed.
Finish the drink in the front of your guests’ eyes by combining the two parts of the drink: pour the blue alkaline solution into the almost colorless acidic one and watch the colors change dramatically!
My experiments with this recipe
Those who know me are aware that I hate artificial food colorings and love chemistry. For a long time, I’ve been thinking of developing a recipe for a blue or violet drink — witches’ brew. Now, when the Halloween time is near, I got that itch again.
At first I was planning to use blueberry juice. However, blueberry juice is not that easy to acquire all over the world. Moreover, the experiments I did with blueberry juice were not satisfying enough.
Next I was thinking of red cabbage. From one of my childhood books I knew that red cabbage changes color with pH. It’s pink in acidic solutions and blue or green in alkaline solutions. I wanted to piggyback on that fact in my interesting drink.
I made some red cabbage indicator (= extract) and did some experiments but I wasn’t really satisfied. I didn’t get that violet or blue hue, because all the stuff I used was quite acidic. I knew that baking soda was alkali, but it didn’t taste good, and that small amount which I could tolerate wasn’t enough to color the drink blue or violet. I was a bit disappointed. See you later, indicator.
Suddenly I got a wild idea about color changing drink. How about if I combined two, different-colored parts and would get a third, completely new color? That was an idea definitely worth trying!
I made some red cabbage extract, cooled it down and poured some of it into a small measurement cup with some additional water. Then I added 1 pinch baking soda to create alkaline solution. The fluid turned bright blue! How promising!
Then the acidic part. I decided to use lemon juice. Lime juice would have been also an option, but lemons are more affordable. I poured 2 tablespoons lemon juice into a glass, added 10 drops liquid stevia and 1/4 cup (60 ml) sparkling water.
I was thrilled to try out the combination of these two differently colored parts. I poured the blue solution into the pale acidic solution. The result: bright pink drink! Well, it could have tasted sweeter and I somehow could taste the baking soda somewhere in the background, but in general I was very positively surprised. My idea worked in practice!
Next I added a tiny pinch of powdered vitamin C to get more acid. It didn’t change the pink color any more red, though. I also added some vodka to see if I can make adults-only drink. That worked. The color didn’t change but the vodka was a nice addition.
I thought the red cabbage extract was too dark in color. I reduced the amount of red cabbage and increased the amount of water. First I had used 1 lb (450 g) red cabbage and 4 cups (950 ml) water. Now I reduced the amount of red cabbage to 8 oz (230 g). That worked nicely.
I still wanted to try out, if smaller amount of red cabbage works. I put 4 oz (115 g) red cabbage in a saucepan and added 4 cups (950 ml) boiling water. The extract was quite light in color, and the alkaline solution didn’t produce red enough result when combined with acid.
At some point I got the idea to add baking soda to the still warm red cabbage extract and not to the individual servings. When I had added the baking soda to the measurement cup with the cold red cabbage extract, it didn’t dissolve properly. Moreover, the amount — 1 pinch — of baking soda per serving was somehow too much, I could taste it in the ready drink.
I was planning to pour 1 tablespoon baking soda to the whole amount of warm red cabbage extract. To my disappointment 1 tablespoon measurement spoon didn’t fit to the jar of baking soda and I had to take a smaller, 1 teaspoon measurement spoon.
I added 1 teaspoon baking soda to the red cabbage extract and voilà! The fluid turned bright blue in no time. I was astonished that just 1 teaspoon baking soda worked that well. Even better, it dissolved completely and I couldn’t taste a trace of it in the ready drink.
But how about other stevia flavors in addition to just plain, unflavored stevia? I picked some different flavors of liquid stevia from my pantry and tried them with the drink. Cinnamon stevia was fine, so was Vanilla stevia, but watermelon stevia was absolutely horrible, so was peach stevia. Well, I think watermelon stevia tastes absolutely horrible everywhere…
I remembered I had some stevia crystals with different flavors: strawberry, cherry, orange and lime. Since I wanted to have almost colorless or maximum pale, yellowish acidic solution, strawberry and cherry were out of question.
Orange and lime stevia crystals were both great, but I preferred lime stevia crystals because of the flavor and the pale color. I would imagine kids prefer orange to lime, though.
To get that bright pink hue, lemon or lime juice was needed in addition to the stevia crystals. The crystals were a nice addition tastewise, anyway. Moreover, the crystals dissolved nicely in the lemon juice, they wouldn’t have dissolved just in the sparkling water.
I still did some tests with my chosen ingredients and adjusted the amounts before I was completely happy. The only bad thing is, that if the guests who are going to come to my Halloween party are reading this know already about this drink and it doesn’t come as a surprise anymore…
Tips for variation
One note though, if you omit the stevia crystals and use only liquid stevia, I would recommend to use 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice and add as much liquid stevia until you reach preferred sweetness. According to my experiments unflavored stevia is sweeter than the flavored ones. This might depend on the brand, though. Personally, I need 15 drops unflavored liquid stevia to sweeten one serving of the ready drink when I need 25 drops flavored liquid stevia to get enough sweetness.
For adults, you can add some vodka to the acidic part of the drink before adding the sparkling water. You can also try with different flavors of vodka. Don’t use anything sweetened, though.
After straining the red cabbage extract you have some chopped red cabbage left. You can make a nice side dish for example by frying the red cabbage in olive oil or bacon grease until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt, white pepper, a couple of drops stevia and teaspoon or two apple cider vinegar.
Oh yes, because of the red, white and blue colors, this drink is perfect also for the 4th of July festivities.
Next week, another creepy Halloween recipe. Mwahahaha! Stay tuned!