In the food and beverage industry, there is something known as the “fajita effect,” named after the phenomena that occurs when a sizzling platter of fajitas is paraded through a dining room, inspiring ripples of subsequent fajita orders. For a cocktail to spark the fajita effect, it needs to be one of two things: on fire or neon-hued. While many brightly colored beverages rely on food coloring or artificially colored ingredients, some brilliant bartenders have come up with natural ways to inject some dayglo glory into their drinks. Here, four naturally neon cocktails to make at home—just be sure you whip up a few extra because the second your neighbor, roommate or mailman sees you drinking one, they’ll definitely demand their own.
These Naturally Neon Cocktails Are Liquid Lisa Frank
Unimpressed by most White Negronis, beverage director and co-owner Gabriela Ramos of Taylor Railworks in Portland, Oregon, decided to come up with her own—one that actually tasted like a Negroni. “I took it as a personal challenge to come up with something that had the same texture, bittersweet flavors and brightness, but wasn’t red,” she says. The key ingredient, she found, was Aveze, a floral, woody, bitter liqueur with a bright yellow hue. When it came to choosing a gin, Ramos opted for Gordon’s, a somewhat underappreciated brand, over a more expensive craft bottling because of its strong juniper backbone. “It’s been my friend for a very long time,” she says. “It has a everything that it needs.” A splash of Cocchi Americano and Dolin Blanc round the cocktail out. The result is a Negroni variation even the strictest Negroni die-hard will love.
Aveze Gentiane Liqueur
If Lisa Frank created a cocktail, it might look a lot like the El Guapo. Bright pink, thanks to a desert pear (aka prickly pear) syrup (available online), it’s spiked with tequila, brightened even more with a squirt of lime, and spritzed with ginger beer. At Stones Throw in Houston, Texas, bartenders mix the pupil-dilating cocktail with tart and spicy house-made ginger beer. Home bartenders should opt for similarly fresh and crisp craft ginger beer—we like Reed’s or Ginger People.
Hidden behind a freezer door inside Frozen Matter, a Denver, Colorado, ice cream shop, Retrograde takes full advantage of the shop’s confectionary tools. They freeze cucumber juice with a Brazilian ice pop maker to form the bright green blocks that chill and color this Gin & Tonic-Martini hybrid. Home bartenders need not spring for professional-grade equipment, though; simply freeze cucumber juice in ice cube trays (preferably king cube trays). Retrograde’s bartenders use the ice for more than just this drink: They shake cocktails like Gimlets with the green-hued ice to curb dilution and give the drink a rich cucumber flavor. The ice would also be great in a Margarita.
Inspired by The Purple One himself, this vibrantly violet cocktail from NYC’s new The Horny Ram gets its color from butterfly pea flower tea (available online). When steeped with water, the tea turns bright blue, but when mixed with lemon juice, it changes to a dreamy purple. The drink’s flavor matches its floral color: Made with lavender syrup and mild New Amsterdam gin, it’s perfect for sipping in a spring garden (or at home in front of the TV). Feel free to play around with the color, adding more lemon juice for a brighter, pinker cocktail or more butterfly pea flower tea for a richer purple.
Butterfly Pea Flower Tea