Roses are red
Violets are blue
Here’s the story of a cocktail
And the recipe too!
When I fell in love with bartending, it wasn’t for tips, or the fun environment, or the free alcohol (although, those are a few of my favorite things), it was for the art process that goes into building a craft cocktail. I had always felt like an artist, but never seemed to find the medium that fit me, until one day I stepped behind the bar. Boom; like a duck to water.
This drink is a blueberry whiskey sour, and it is the first drink of mine that was ever published on a menu. It was inspired by my best friend and fellow coworker, who is the kind of person that knows what to say and when to say it. She’s fun, beautiful, charismatic, and knows how to make your day better, no matter what kind of day it’s been. One day she finished her shift early, plopped her five-foot self on the barstool in front of me, and asked me to make her something “inspired”. I looked up at her, ready to ask for more direction, when someone opened the door and walked into the bar, letting in lots of sunlight. In the light, I was reminded that she had freshly-dyed purple hair. It was long and bouncy and suddenly shimmered dark violet hues, and it was all the inspiration I needed.
I immediately turned to grab Creme de Violette, a liqueur that is beautiful in color (made famous by its use in the classic Aviation cocktail), but notoriously difficult to use. It has a sort of perfumey quality and its aggressive floral flavor profile doesn’t tend to play well with others. All characteristics considered though, I was dead set on using half an ounce of it in this drink in order to evoke the right hue. So, I set out to find all things purple behind the bar. I immediately reached for Chambord, a raspberry liqueur, with a more burgundy tone. Raspberries and violets, that can’t be bad right? Somehow the raspberries reminded me of wine, and so I followed the burgundy energy to red wine, when I remembered we had just made a reduction with one of our cabernet bottles.
At this point, I was dancing around the bar, pouring things into my tin without any concern for rules or basic cocktail ratios. I felt that all the flavors should be equally proportioned, in order to celebrate them all. Well, this landed me with 1.5 ounces of sweetener, which is pretty insane for building a cocktail, considering most drinks are right around 3 ounces in total. I knew I had to balance that sweetness, so I added in lemon juice, and blueberry puree for acid. I fanned through my internal bitters inventory and remembered we had a bottle of lavender bitters; kismet.
It should be noted that one of my favorite cocktails is one made with a frothed egg white. The most commonly made egg white cocktail is the whiskey sour, but with all the flavors going on in my little art project, I was afraid the whiskey would overtake it all. I was so scared, in fact, that I found myself reaching for vodka. Many people don’t know this, but by definition, vodka is made to be as flavorless and odorless as possible, so it was adding nothing to my creation except the service of a blank canvas. I decided I had been adventurous enough, and that maybe a blank canvas was exactly what I needed. I shook it up and served it to my purple-haired muse, and she loved it!…which is all fine and dandy, but my lovely bestie is not a difficult one to please.
I tasted it and knew immediately it had great potential, but was not quite “done”. Eventually, I was able to make it again for my mentor. He took one sip, uttered a couple profanities in his excitement, and after he grilled me about why I hadn’t made it for him sooner, asked me simply “have you considered making it with whiskey instead?”. See, he’s the mathematician behind our bar, the historian, the lover of the classics. While I’m back there trying to break every rule I can and going full Picasso, he is always reminding me “the classics are great for a reason”. I explained to him that I considered it but was too scared it would take over, and he responded by pulling a new bourbon bottle from the back bar and nudging it towards me in a very master-apprentice sort of way. And so, we threw it back to the classics and made a modern style whiskey sour.
The “Violets are Blue”; She’s fun, beautiful, charismatic, and knows how to make your day better, and I feel a little glimmer of pride every time I serve her across the bar and tell this story to a new friend in a bar stool.
- 1 egg white
- 2 dashes lavender bitters
- .75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- .50 oz red wine reduction
- .50 blueberry puree
- .50 oz Creme de Violette
- .50 oz Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
- 1.75 oz Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey
This drink was intentionally made with my favorite bourbon, Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey. Unlike most bourbons, it’s made without rye grain, making it smoother and more mellow than most, and a perfect fit for this cocktail! If you can’t get your hands on this bottle though, feel free to substitute with a bourbon of your choice.
- Dry shake (no ice, about one minute)
- Add ice
- Long hard shake
- Garnish with expressed lemon oil (and a flower if you feel fancy!)
*blueberry puree: blend blueberries and dilute with equal parts filtered water
*red wine reduction: reduce red wine to half its volume, and stir in equal parts cane sugar
Bianca (she/her) is a lover of all things art. She’s been in the food service industry for nearly a decade and has found herself behind the bar this last year. When she’s not behind the bar you can find her dancing, although there’s plenty of that while she’s shaking up cocktails too! You can find her on instagram at @biancaxxnicole