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Extracting Natural Color from Plants: The Freeze-Thaw Method

In advance of my seminar at Tales of the Cocktail on Color in Cocktails and Spirits, I am putting up a few blog posts that the attendees (and you know, you) can use as reference. The images below are exported PowerPoint slides. 

I was trying to create some natural colors from plants and read about how dyers do it. Many of them are not practical (or safe) for food and beverage use. Some ways to extract color that are safe include: 

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But one method I read about suggested freezing flower petals overnight, then thawing in hot water. This actually didn't work for me, but it gave me the idea for how to do it similarly. 

The idea is that freezing plants breaks the cell structure and allows the natural colors to release when you add water. So what I did on my second attempt was to freeze the flower petals in water, then let it thaw out and strain out the solids. 

This worked much better for me, and then I decided to repeat the process (not with new petals but just freezing and thawing the same ice cubes three times). Each time the color of the water became more intense. It worked! 


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With any flowers in particular or plants in general picked from nature (as opposed to the produce section), make sure that they're safe and edible. A great resource for that is CocktailSafe.org


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Above are the flower petals I harvested from my patio. I put them in 2' ice cube trays with some water. 


Slide123As you can see, the colors came out lovely. 

The idea is that you could now use this water as a base for a simple syrup, soda, or ice cube with the natural color in it. 

Though I haven't experimented with other plants yet, I bet this technique would work great for many things. 

 

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