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Home on the Range: Violet Syrup


Published May 11, 2021 at 1:53 p.m.
Updated May 11, 2021 at 3:01 p.m.

  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Violet syrup
There's something very Willy Wonka about the process of making violet syrup.

Wild violets are everywhere right now, filling lawns, fields and forest edges like chocolate bars in a candy shop. The joy of finding a perfect patch — untouched by chemicals, in lead-free soil, with more purple blooms than white — is akin to unwrapping a Golden Ticket.

As with the children who enter Willy Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory, a hefty amount of patience is required in harvesting violets. The process of gathering the sprightly flowers and separating petals from their green stems and calyces feels like it could outlast an Everlasting Gobstopper. (There's no one evaluating your moral compass, though, so go ahead and drink all the Fizzy Lifting Drinks you want.)

Separating violet petals from the calyxes - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Separating violet petals from the calyxes
But other than the time involved in foraging and prepping, violet syrup is simple to make. And the end result channels Violet Beauregarde on the blueberry pie portion of her ill-fated three-course chewing gum meal: "Violet, you're turning violet!"

The vibrant blueish-purple of the finished syrup is a color rarely found in nature, especially in the edible realm. That makes using it in culinary applications extra fun: purple drinks, pancakes, cake frosting, you name it. The whimsical, floral syrup is a delightful addition anywhere you'd like a little springy sweetness.

For a little bit of magic — or, really, science — squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the finished syrup. Violets act as a natural litmus test, and as the acidic lemon juice lowers the syrup's pH, the color will change from blueish-purple to magenta.

A riff on the classic Aviation cocktail with homemade violet syrup - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • A riff on the classic Aviation cocktail with homemade violet syrup
My favorite way to use violet syrup is in a riff on the classic Aviation cocktail. DIY violet syrup doesn't have the intense (artificial) flavor of  crème de violette, but it gives a nice floral hint along with the flower's signature color. Combine 2oz gin, 1/2oz maraschino liqueur, 1/2oz violet syrup and 1/2oz lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain and serve, garnished with a violet, of course.

Violet Syrup

Yields roughly one pint.

  • 1 cup violets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (sub: 1/2 cup honey for a syrup that's less sweet, though the color will be less vibrant)
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  1. Forage wild violets from unsprayed, untreated patches. Avoid harvesting from roadsides, trails, or lawns containing lead in the soil. Violets like to grow in shady spots and along the edges of fields. (Note: Violets' heart-shaped leaves have toxic lookalikes. Be sure to correctly identify plants before consuming.)
  2. Separate the petals from their green stems and calyces, which can make the syrup taste bitter and grassy. Check for bugs and dirt as you go, rinsing as necessary.
  3. Place the petals in non-reactive container, such as a heat-proof bowl or a glass canning jar. Pour boiling water over the petals. Cover and leave at room temperature until the color drains from the petals — at least an hour, up to 24 hours.
  4. Pour the petals and liquid into the top of a double boiler over medium heat — or make an improvised setup by placing a heat-proof bowl on top of a saucepan containing about an inch of water. Add sugar and stir gently until dissolved, making sure the mixture doesn't reach a boil.
  5. Strain through a mesh sieve, separating the petals from the finished syrup. Let cool, then transfer to glass jars to store in the fridge.
Have ideas for how to use violet syrup, questions or suggestions for future flowery recipes? Email them to jbarry@sevendaysvt.com.