So, hey, here’s something fun to consider next time you feel like mixing yourself a cocktail: A distillery in Scotland makes gin that changes color when you add tonic to it. The distillery is called The Old Curiosity Distillery, and although I do realize that their spirits' spectacular abilities are a result of really cool science, I am not totally convinced it isn’t also just straight-up magic. One thing’s for sure: Cocktail Instagram will never be the same again.
The reason Old Curiosity is currently in the news is due to their partnership with Marks & Spencer. According to Good Housekeeping UK, the distillery and the retailer have teamed up to create two flavored gins, each of which will sell for £25, and each of which change color dramatically when you add tonic. The British Rose Dry Gin, which is made using the bright pink Apothecary’s Rose, starts as a pale gold and becomes a vibrant shade of pink with the addition of tonic; meanwhile, the British Lavender Dry Gin, which incorporates the soothing flower included in the drink’s name, is a blueish purple in the bottle and turns into a purple-tinged pink in a glass with some tonic. They’re available exclusively at Marks & Spencer; according to Cosmo UK, you can find them in brick-and-mortar stores now, with an online option available next week.
As I mentioned, though, the gin’s color-changing abilities isn’t due to magic; it’s science. “The gins keep the natural properties of the plants they’re made from,” a Marks & Spencer spokesperson told Pretty52. “Consequently, when tonic is added, not only does the mixer open up the ‘nose’ of these fabulous gins, it changes the pH of the spirit together with its original color!” (Remember those science experiments involving pH you did in school? Same deal. Fun fact: Tonic, is a base, rather than an acid, due to the quinine that flavors it.)
But this certainly isn’t Old Curiosity’s first rodeo, so to speak. The distillery’s beginnings date back to 2012, when wife and husband team Liberty and Hamish Martin purchased a farm on the outskirts of Edinburgh; they developed this farm into an herb nursery, arts center, shop, and café, growing more than 600 varieties of herbs in what they call the Secret Herb Garden. Then, in 2016, bar owner and mixologist Steve Ross came aboard at the Secret Herb Garden as a volunteer — and when herbologist met mixologist, Old Curiosity was born. The distillery was officially launched in 2017 with three flagship, flavored, color-changing gin varieties they lovingly refer to as Secret Garden Gin.
Indeed, the two Old Curiosity-made gins available at M&S are actually quite similar to two of the distillery’s original offerings: Apothecary Rose and Lavender and Echinacea. Both of these gins involve a similar herb profile, as well as performing the same kind of color changing magic — Apothecary Rose is a gold-colored spirit that turns pink when mixed with tonic:
While Lavender and Echinacea is initially a sort of periwinkle color that shifts to a purple-y pink shade with some quinine-fueled help:
There’s also a third variety available directly from Old Curiosity called Chamomile and Cornflower, which t starts as a calming blue-green before changing to a pale pink with the addition of tonic. You can see it in action in the glasses on the far right in this video:
Old Curiosity’s original line is a little on the pricey side; the three varieties each retail for around £35.95 for a 500ml bottle, although you can get a cute little sampler set that includes a 40ml bottle of each of the three flavors for £22.50.
But that’s where Marks & Spencer comes in. M&S teams up with notable distilleries from time to time to create exclusive spirits available at affordable price points; for example, two currently available M&S gin varieties, No. 01 Spice Gin and No. 2 Zest Gin, were both made by Charles Maxwell Master Distiller and blended at the Thames Distillery, while the No. 4 Five Times Distilled Extra Pure Vodka was made by the Cristanol Distillery in Reims, France. Typically these kinds of collaborations retail for around £20 to £30; I like to think of them as the booze equivalent of Target’s or H&M’s designer collaborations.
Alas, though, if you’re wondering if you might be able to get a hold of Old Curiosity’s color-changing gins in the United States, you’re out of luck; the U.S. M&S site doesn’t include alcohol, and Old Curiosity only delivers to mainland UK addresses. You can, however, get a different color-changing gin: Empress 1908, which is made by Canadian distillery Victoria Distillers, is available in both Canada and the United States. It’s a bright indigo in the bottle — a color it gets from the use of butterfly pea blossoms (which you might recognize from Starbucks’ shade-shifting Lemonade Cold Brew) — but turns a rich pink when you add tonic or lemon juice. Here’s what it looks like in action (skip to the 55-second mark to go right to the magic):
You can find out where Empress 1908 is available near you here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a cocktail menu to plan.