Whether you have a kiddo in your life obsessed with all things unicorn or are raising a budding scientist, this sweet and tart unicorn drink is a color-changing lemonade made for fun-loving and curious kids (and adults!).
Butterfly pea flowers are becoming increasingly popular, showing up in teas, liquors, and flavored drinks. They’re a great way to get a vibrant blue color in a completely natural way. Plus when mixed with any kind of acid, the blue from butterfly pea flowers changes to purple instantly.
What shade of purple depends on the acid and amounts added. It’s a very fun experiment to do, especially with a kiddo who likes the kitchen and/or a drinkable science experiment.
My daughter and I even tried butterfly pea flowers in place of the purple cabbage in these Unicorn Noodles from America’s Test Kitchen. (It worked just like the video shows!)
It was this noodle experiment that led us to make Unicorn Lemonade. After all, if we can turn noodles to blue, then purple, what else can we experiment with? I already make my lavender simple syrup blue using butterfly pea flowers, so adding it into regular simple syrup wasn’t a far reach.
This deceptively simple, but very fun drink requires following the steps in order to create the desired effect. Otherwise you’ll just end up with purple lemonade, which is fun, but not the color-changing unicorn drink we’re going for here.
Unicorn lemonade drink is easy to make at home and is perfect for a themed unicorn party, celebrating National Unicorn Day (April 9 in the U.S.), or making any day a little extra special.
It's the ultimate in DIY kids party drinks, with its sweetness, color changing magic, and is free of artificial dyes and other common food allergens.
- White sugar - Choose cane sugar or beet sugar, but keep this white sugar for the best lemonade flavor.
- Butterfly pea flowers - An ingredient in many tea blends, this is what give the drink its color.
- Lemons - Fresh lemon juice is super important for this drink. Squeeze a few lemons for the best flavor. You'll need about 3 lemons for the recipe.
- Purple or Pink Sugars - A sugar rim is a fun and easy garnish. I love purple and pink sugars to keep with the unicorn theme, but use whatever color you'd like!
- Edible glitter - This is probably not something you have in your pantry, but it ups the fun factor A LOT! I highly recommend it.
How to Make a Unicorn Drink (Unicorn Lemonade)
Make the Syrup
Make a weak simple syrup by combining 1 cup hot water with ¾ cup sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Add ⅛ teaspoon of butterfly pea flower powder OR 12-14 butterfly pea flowers to create a blue syrup.
Let the flowers steep for 5-7 minutes before straining them out of the syrup.
Cool your blue simple syrup completely before using.
Prep Your Glass
Pour sugar(s) into a shallow dish. Stir to combine if using multiple colors.
Rim glasses by running a slice of lemon around the top of the glass or dip the glass in a little water. Dip the rim in the colored sugar.
Fill the glass with ice cubes.
Make the Unicorn Drink
Pour blue syrup into your prepared glass.
Slowly pour lemon juice on top of the ice.
Note: You MUST pour the lemon juice in slowly and directly over an ice cube. This will keep it from immediately mixing in with the blue syrup.
Dust with edible glitter, if using.
Present with a spoon or straw and instructions to stir before sipping!
Recipe Tips for Unicorn Drinks
- Go easy on the butterfly pea flowers! I know the amount in the recipe is really small. That’s on purpose. You only need a tiny bit to get that bright blue color. Put in too much butterfly pea flower and you’ll end up with a dark, navy blue syrup that tastes earthy/grassy instead of a bright, royal blue with no additional flavor. Adding lemon juice to dark syrup just makes it look muddy, not bright purple. (Trust me on this one!)
- Swap the lemon juice for fresh lime juice and make unicorn limeade! Because the acidity and color is slightly different in lemons vs limes, you will still get the blue-to-purple effect but it’ll be a slightly darker shade of purple if you use lime juice.
- Make your syrup ahead of time so it has lots of time to cool. This simple syrup will keep for up to 3 weeks when stored in the refrigerator, so you can make it well ahead of when you plan to make these drinks.
Looking for More Alcohol-Free Mocktail Recipes for Kids?
My daughter loves joining me for a special drink, so we've created some kid-friendly mocktail recipes together! My mocktail for kids skips the sugary soda but delivers lots of flavor. And while I made my kids Halloween mocktail specifically for the spooky holiday, this grape-juice based drink can be enjoyed any time of year!
FAQs and Substitutions
Nothing if you want to maintain the color changing effect of this drink. You can use cane sugar or beet sugar, but all other sweeteners have a natural color to them, which will change the color of your syrup. This will change the color of the entire drink and you won’t get the blue-to-purple effect that makes unicorn lemonade so fun.
I buy mine online, but you can find them at many health food stores and specialty stores. (Look by the teas or dried herb section.) Just be sure to buy 100% butterfly pea flowers, not a blend or tea mixture. Those will have other herbs and flowers in them which will impact both the taste and color of your syrup.
No. This drink is not a unicorn cocktail. It contains no alcohol. It is designed to be served to children and anyone who enjoys a fun lemonade drink.
Nope. This lemonade has nothing to do with Starbucks or its famous unicorn frappuccino. This isn't a cotton candy flavored drink. It is lemonade and tastes like it.
Not if you want the color changing effects. Adding lemon juice to syrup that's been dyed blue with traditional food coloring will not cause the color to dramatically change the way it does with butterfly pea flower. Which is why this recipe calls for butterfly pea flowers for these colorful drinks.