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Empress Gin and Tonic

by Bridget Charters

Recently I had the opportunity to pay Victoria, British Columbia, a visit during the 2019 Swiftsure Race. We traveled by boat from the San Juan Islands to the Port of Sydney Harbour and walked a few blocks before taking the local bus that dropped us right at the Empress Hotel. While there, I ordered the Empress Gin and Tonic and was surprised to receive a purple cocktail in a tall tulip-style glass accompanied with a bottle of Fever-Tree tonic. What a lovely surprise!

The development of this special gin happened at Victoria Distillers. The distillers partnered with the mixologists from the Empress Hotel to especially create a gin for the Empress Bar. Victoria Distillers wanted something special and used butterfly pea powder to give the gin its distinctive color and flavor. This gin is more floral and uses citrus peel (grapefruit in particular), cinnamon, coriander, rose, and ginger, along with some of the Empress blend tea in the recipe.

Victoria Distillers recommends blending the special gin with a premium tonic such as Fever Tree, then rather than the typical lime wedge, they suggest a slice of grapefruit for garnish. Victoria Distillers now sell the Empress 1908 gin in liquor stores in the Seattle area.

As we headed home the next day, we wandered around Sidney and were surprised to find Victoria Distillers there at the Port of Sydney Harbour! Some of the owners were at the distillery and shared their
story of the Empress gin and how they arrived at the beautifully colored libation.

The process was long but magical, and a bottle of Empress gin was soon stowed in our hold for the trip home.

Empress Gin and Tonic

Empress Gin and Tonic

  • 2 ounces Victoria Empress 1908 Gin
  • 3 – 4 ounces premium tonic such as Fever-Tree
  • ½ slice of Grapefruit
  • Large wedge of lime – optional


A proper gin and tonic is made by loading a proper glass, normally a double rocks glass, but for the Empress G&T a large wine glass is great (think Aperol spritz), or if you have a tulip glass, that looks like large water glass with a short stem. Fill the glass with ice and pour the gin over the ice, then tuck a large half-moon slice of grapefruit into the ice and pour the tonic over the top. Enjoy this incredibly refreshing drink on a warm summer’s day.

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