Why Everyone in the Beverage World Is Passionate About Passion Fruit

Canned sparkling water, cider, and cocktails are spotlighting this tropical fruit.

passion fruit drink beer cider cocktails canned rtd
Photo courtesy of Drifter Craft Cocktails
Photo courtesy of Drifter Craft Cocktails

My mom grows passion fruit in her backyard, where the California sun nourishes the creeping vines that always hint at an abundant yield. Laughably, her plant provided only two small fruit last year—but they were both wonderfully tart, fragrant, and juicy.

It is no surprise that my mom, alongside many others, are obsessed with this small, tropical fruit whose insides are full of seeds and neon orange pulp. Although flavors can range from bitingly sour to refreshingly sweet, these vitamin-packed fruits function well in desserts, atop bowls of yogurt, and also in drinks. And people in the ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage industry are catching on.

“We have built our brand around the idea that people should drink more weird water—and that by using herbs, fruits, and flowers in ways people may not think of, we can deliver on our promise of earthly tastes and heavenly feelings,” says Paul Voge, CEO and cofounder of Aura Bora. This includes core flavors like Basil Berry and Lavender Cucumber, as well as limited edition offerings like the latest Lime Cardamom and sold-out Hibiscus Passion Fruit.

“Both passion fruit and hibiscus have very distinct flavors, and for that reason, they must be very intentionally paired,” Voge explains. “The floral notes of hibiscus play well off the sweeter, fruit-forward notes in passion fruit.” Although the Hibiscus Passion Fruit is currently out of stock, Aura Bora regularly brings back fan favorites—and revenue from Aura Bora supports 1% for the Planet, making this an optimal choice for Earth Day.

passion fruit hibiscus sparkling water
Photo courtesy of Aura Bora

Sparkling water is not the only avenue in which passion fruit shines. In Texas, at Austin Eastciders, passion fruit is the latest limited edition flavor to grace the shelves and taproom, joining other tropical flavors like mango mimosa and pineapple cider.

“Passion fruit creates an incredible cider blend because it is tart and tangy—and it has a lot of the same properties that make fruits like pineapple and blood orange blend really well with Eastciders,” explains Brittnay Perlo, the director of cider making and product development at Austin Eastciders. “You will get sweet and tart passion fruit, notes of citrus and grapefruit, with a tropical twist.”

According to Dave Rule, Austin Eastciders senior VP of marketing, Mintel data shows that 39% of consumers are opting for RTD beverages for their flavor variety. When you look at the craft beer space you have seen the explosion of juicy, cloud and tropical IPAs—there’s no doubt there is a big tropical movement and objectively cider creates a more balanced, lush tropical experience,” he adds.

Although passion fruit is seeing growing popularity in ciders and non-alcoholic beverages, it’s always been a popular ingredient in freshly shaken cocktails—so making the transition to canned cocktails is not as surprising.

passion fruit passionfruit cider austin texas eastciders
Photo courtesy of Austin Eastciders

At Drifter Craft Cocktails, each drink is created in collaboration with bartenders from around the world. Mariena Mercer Boarini, who is the property mixologist for Wynn Las Vegas and commonly uses passion fruit in her recipes, came up with the formula for Drifter Craft Cocktails’s Passion Fruit Caipirinha.

“I love using it in cocktails because it is so nuanced: floral, bright, punchy, acidic, with a whisper of sweetness,” Boarini says. “It brings so much balance to the party and doesn’t need too much flavor adjusting like other tropical fruits that can read too sweet in cocktails.”

Caipirinhas are already naturally sweet, so adding passion fruit was a natural next step. That, and the fact that passion fruit is indigenous to Brazil, made it a suitable candidate to put a unique twist on the country’s national drink.

In addition to the passion fruit and Avua Prata Cachaça—the distilled fermented sugarcane juice that serves as the base for a caipirinha—Boarini included vanilla, green cardamom, and lemongrass to balance out this cocktail that tastes like spring break.

“Passion fruit is certainly trending and I think that’s because it is supremely delicious and it feels exotic and tropical—like a vacation in a sip,” Boarini says. And after years without travel, we could certainly all use a vacation in a sip.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer of food & drink at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.