How to Make Glow-in-the-Dark Drinks

Drinks that glow under a black light

Bartending making glowing drinks

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Have you ever wanted to make a glowing cocktail? There isn't a safe chemical you can add to make a drink glow in the dark on its own. There are several edible substances that glow brightly from fluorescence under black light or ultraviolet light. To work the magic, simply add black lights to light your own glowing concoctions.

Key Takeaways: Glow in the Dark Drinks

  • There is no chemical that may be safely mixed into drinks to make them glow in the dark.
  • However, many safe liquids glow (fluoresce) under black or ultraviolet light. Of these, the brightest glow is produced by tonic water, which appears blue.
  • Without a black light, drinks may be made to appear to glow using presentation tricks. You can use a glowing glass, ice cubes containing small lights, or use a glow stick as a stirrer.

If you want to make glowing drinks, get a pocket-sized black light (ultraviolet lamp) and take it shopping with you. Shine the light on products and look for a glow. Note that the glow may be a different color from the product. Also, you will discover many plastic containers are highly fluorescent.

Here is a list of beverages and additives that reputedly glow in the dark under black light. Absinthe and Blue Curacao™ contain alcohol, but the other items can be used for any occasion. Some fluorescent and phosphorescent substances will glow for several seconds after the light source is removed.

  • Blue raspberry Little Hugs™ (kiddie soft drink)
  • Mountain Dew™ and Diet Mountain Dew™ 
  • Tonic Water (or any drink containing quinine glow blue)
  • Many sports drinks (especially those with B vitamins such as Monster™ energy drinks)
  • Absinthe
  • Blue Curacao™
  • Some bright food colors
  • Certain flavors of gelatin
  • Vitamin B12 (glows bright yellow)
  • Chlorophyll (like from spinach juice, glows blood red)
  • Milk (yellow)
  • Caramel (pale yellow)
  • Vanilla ice cream (pale yellow)
  • Honey (golden yellow)

Of these options, tonic water glows the most brightly under black light. Cranberry juice is not fluorescent, but it may be mixed with tonic water to offset the flavor and tint the blue so it appears purple or reddish. Clear soft drinks typically appear to glow under a black light because the bubbles from the carbonation reflect back the visible portion of light from the lamp.

Tonic water under black light
Tonic water glow bright blue under black light. Photo by Cathy Scola / Getty Images

Make Drinks Appear to Glow

You can make any drink appear to glow by using glowing products:

  • Use glow sticks as cocktail stirrers. Simply snap the glow stick before serving the drink. The glow from the stick will illuminate the liquid. Now, while the oily liquid inside glow sticks is nominally non-toxic, it tastes truly awful. Check the glow stick for damage before placing it in a drink. Also, do not microwave the stick prior to use. Some people do this because the heat makes the glow brighter (although it doesn't last as long). Microwaving glow sticks can cause damage to the appliance and may cause the stick to break open.
  • Add a glowing ice cube. If you have a black light, try ice cubes made using tonic water. Tonic water fluoresces bright blue. Another option is to freeze a small light into the water to make a true glowing ice cube. A simple method is to enclose an LED "glowie" inside a small zipper plastic bag. All you need is a coin battery, an LED (in the color of your choice), and a small bag. Another option is to use a glowing plastic ice cube. These are available in some stores and online. Basically, you chill the ice cube and turn on the light before adding it to a cocktail. Two advantages are that the luminous cubes are re-usable and they don't melt and dilute the drink. Some types of LED glow cubes can display multiple colors or even morph between them.
  • Use a glowing glass. With a black light, simply use a fluorescent plastic glass. These are widely available at grocery and liquor stores. You could also add a light to a regular glass or purchase special glasses that contain lights.
  • Add phosphorescent objects to the drink. There are many plastic glow-in-the-dark objects that may be added to drinks. Stars are the obvious choice!

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