The Water Lily Cocktail is a bright and refreshing gin cocktail that is full of floral and citrus notes. It's a perfect welcome to summer! The beautiful color of this drink comes from Crème de Violette, a violet-flavored liqueur. You can also achieve a deeper purple color than a traditional Water Lily by using Empress Gin, which is infused with butterfly pea flowers. It's both stunning to look at and delicious to drink!
This cocktail was created in 2007 by Richard Boccaro, a bartender at Little Branch in New York City. Inspired by a Corpse Reviver No. 2 cocktail, this drink omits the absinthe rinse and uses Crème de Violette instead of Lillet. Like its inspiration drink, this is a simple cocktail to remember, since it uses equal amounts of each ingredient.
A Water Lily isn't that far off from an Aviation cocktail, with both violet liqueur and gin as the main flavors. They have different ratios of ingredients, and the triple sec is replaced with maraschino liqueur, but both drinks have a lovely purple color and violet flavor.
If you're looking for another tasty cocktail for Valentine's day or Galentine's day with the girls, try this Empress 1908 Gin Cocktail - Pink Gin Sour, a pale pink drink and with bright citrus flavors. Try a Hibiscus Gin Cocktail with Pineapple for a delicious tart and sweet taste, as well as a stunningly vibrant fuchsia hue.
Here are the ingredients needed to make this beautiful and tasty cocktail.
- Lemon juice - freshly squeezed lemon juice will give you the brightest pure lemon flavor.
- Gin - I've used Empress 1908 Gin in this recipe. I would recommend using this if you want to punch up the purple color. If you don't have Empress, a London Dry style, like Highclere Castle Gin, is a great choice.
- Triple sec - Cointreau liqueur (an orange liqueur in the triple sec style) is specified in the original recipe. Other Triple Sec brands have more sugar, so feel free to use a different one if you like a little more sweetness (but the Crème de Violette).
- Crème de Violette - a floral liqueur thats deep purple in color and tastes strongly of violets (if you've ever had Choward's violet mints, you'll know the flavor!). I used Giffard brand Creme de Violette.
- Orange peel - using an orange peel garnish is traditional, and the color really pops against the purple.
Need to make some substitutions? Here are some ways you can change out the ingredients in this cocktail:
- Gin - if you don't have Empress Gin, your favorite London dry gin will do. Or, try tequila blanco. If you have a favorite gin but still want the purple color boost, try infusing your gin with dried butterfly pea flowers by letting the flowers steep in gin for a few hours, up to a day, and straining them out.
- Liqueur - swap out Crème de Violette with Crème Yvette (mixed berry, orange, spice, and vanilla notes). This swap will keep the purple hues flowing throughout your cocktail, but gives a different type of flavor. Or, try using UME Plum liqueur.
- Citrus - instead of lemon, try lime, orange, or grapefruit juice.
Here are some variations on this recipe:
- Corpse Reviver No.2 - this strangely named cocktail is very similar to a Water Lily. Made with some of the same ingredients, if you like the Water Lily, you'll like this cocktail as well.
- Sunflower Cocktail - Replace the Crème de Violette with elderflower liqueur (like St Germain) and you have this bright and delicious drink.
- Virgin - if you're avoiding alcohol, you can use a gin substitute to make a non-alcoholic version of this drink. Lyre's brand of non-alcoholic spirits offers a Pink London Spirit that has berry and floral notes, or Monday Zero Alcohol Gin is a tasty option. In place of triple sec, try Lyre's Orange Sec. To substitute out the Crème de Violette, use a violet simple syrup (like this 1883 Violet Syrup).
A simple recipe sometimes still needs some necessary tools to make it perfect. To start, use a kitchen peeler to create your garnish. A sharp paring knife is great to clean up the edges of the orange peel.
You'll need a jigger or small measuring cup, a cocktail shaker, and a cocktail strainer. You can even strain the drink through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of all the lemon bits (I do this when adding the lemon to the shaker itself). Check out A Bar Above if you're looking for some top quality barware, and use my code LKDrinks for 10% off everything on their site!
Finally, you'll need a serving glass. A Water Lily cocktail is traditionally served in a coupe glass. They can come in many varieties, so choose one with around a 5 ounce capacity. These Jean Harlow coupe glasses I used were perfect for this elegant drink.
Prepare the garnish by peeling a large piece of orange peel. Clean up the sides with a paring knife and set aside.
Add the lemon juice and gin to a cocktail shaker.
Add the triple sec and Crème de Violette to the cocktail shaker.
Fill the shaker with ice and shake well, about 15-20 times. Strain the drink into the serving glass.
Express the orange oils from the peel over top of the drink by squeezing the peel or twisting it. Then, rest it on the rim of the glass and serve.
Hint: For a punchier purple color, use Empress Gin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Orange peel is the traditional garnish, but lemon, lime, or grapefruit peel would be the next best thing. The bright oils and flavors of citrus will bring the cocktail to life. When garnishing with the peel of any citrus, make sure to twist the peel and express the oils over your drink to infuse more flavor.
Crème de Violette is a deep purple colored liqueur, either naturally or artificially flavored with violets. As a result, it has a strong floral scent and flavor. The amount of alcohol in this liqueur will vary by brand, so be sure to check the percentage. It will generally be around 15-20%, but could be up to 30%.
Remember that the garnish is what makes your drink really pop! It may look pretty, but it also plays a role in the cocktail itself. Squeeze or twist the orange peel to express the oils over top of your cocktail, and even swipe across the rim of your glass before serving. This releases the citrus aromas and really changes the cocktail drinking experience for the better.
Water Lily Cocktail
- Knife and cutting board
- Orange Peel for garnish
- Prepare the garnish by peeling a large piece of orange peel.
- Clean up the sides with a paring knife and set aside.
- Combine the lemon juice, gin, triple sec and crème de violette in a cocktail shaker.
- Fill the shaker with ice and shake well, about 15-20 times.
- Strain the drink into the serving glass.
- Express the orange oils from the peel over top of the drink by squeezing the peel or twisting it. Then, rest it on the rim of the glass and serve.