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Natural Food (And Drink) Coloring Notes and Future Experiments

I'm at the very beginning of some research into natural food colorings for my seminar on Prehistoric Cocktail Technology at Tales of the Cocktail this July in New Orleans. 

Last week I was in my local hippie grocery store (this doesn't narrow it down much when you live in San Francisco) and saw a line of plant-based natural food colorings called Color Garden. I wanted to see if they declared what they used to make the colorings, and they did:

Color Garden Food Coloring Label

The colors used are:

  • Beet juice
  • Purple carrot juice
  • Turmeric
  • Red cabbage juice
  • Annatto (an orange tree seed)
  • Caramel color

I am playing around with some of these flavors at home, dehydrating ingredients to concentrate them and adding them to water or vodka to make them liquid again. I'll keep you posted. 

But an interesting thing to note is that while some of the colors have added citric acid, others have added baking soda: an acid and a base. Luckily, the website explained why this is the case for natural colors (content edited for clarity):

10408778_394500390721029_7523786792890577741_nWarm colors (red, orange, and yellow) prefer an acidic environment. You might consider adding lemon juice.

Cool colors (green, blue, and purple) prefer an alkaline environment. You might consider adding baking soda.

Watch out for cream of tartar (in frosting). Cream of tartar lowers the pH of the icing (makes it more acidic), which is good for shelf-life, but this may limit pure natural food colors to the “warm” colors: red, orange, and yellow.

This could be something to keep in mind if you/I want to use colors in cocktails, as they tend to be acidic rather than basic.



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I use organic dried pea flowers for blue simple syrup, you get them on Amazon or a tincture already made up at molecular gastronomy

It also changes color depending on pH

Camper English

I've been experimenting with that as well, both the tea from this company:

And a coloring extract:


I am trying to dye gin a pink colour and am having trouble finding a natural vegan source that will maintain some shelf life.

I've tried beets, which you'd think would work great, until you let it sit for 3 days. Since then I've done tests with powdered and liquid beet colouring and have learned it is very unstable and extra sensitive to its environment. After a few days it begins to turn into an orange-pink, and then fade into yellow. Since alcohol is just over 7PH "warm" colours, as stated above, would have a harder time surviving in it.

However, there must be a method to colour gin pink in a stable way, as all the major gin manufacturers have a pink gin for purchase.

Some of them list hibiscus or strawberries as their colourant. Are these colours more stable than beet reds?

Should I be adding in something else to the gin to stabilise the colour? I don't want to add citric acid because I'm afraid it would change the taste of the gin.

Camper English

I noted some more natural colorants here: and a method of color extraction here:
but I suspect they might also fade over time - colors often need a fixative but I don't know how that works in food.
I think for a commercial product you might look at flavor houses and what they sell - my guess is that they sell colorants that are naturally derived but using high-tech methods for stability. Just a guess. Good luck.

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