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There aren’t a lot of buzz button recipes online despite their popularity, so I adapted a buzz button margarita and buzz button Verbena drink recipe into this refreshing cocktail. This buzz button drink is easy to make but removing the flower petals and sorting out the seeds is a bit tedious.
Here’s my fun and buzzy take on a Limoncello margarita with dried buzz button flowers.
Refreshing Buzz Button Drink Recipe
- 2.5 ounces carbonated lemonade
- 2 ounces tequila
- 2 ounces Limoncello
- 1.5 ounces lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar or simple syrup)
- 2 buzz button flowers (fresh or dried)
- Remove petals from one Buzz Button and separate seeds.
- Run a wedge of lemon or lime over the rim of a glass (or use a thin spread of honey) then dip in the petals to coat. (Alternately, skip the flower petal rim and chew a fresh buzz button while drinking.)
- In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, Limoncello, lemon juice, and honey with ice. Shake and pour into the prepared glass.
- Top with carbonated lemonade.
- Add the additional buzz button to the drink as a garnish and to infuse extra buzz!
- Enjoy! Be sure to chew the petals from the rim as you drink.
What Are Buzz Buttons?
A buzz button is a flower of the Acmella oleracea (formerly Spilanthes acmella) plant native to Argentina and Brazil. Better known as the toothache plant, Szechuan buttons, buzz buttons, electric daisy, or paracress, the flowers of A. oleracea are a popular addition to cocktails thanks to their multisensory effect.
When chewed, the buzz button flower produces a tingling, electrifying, and numbing sensation over your entire mouth. The intense tingling and numbing is followed by excessive salivation then a cooling sensation. The active ingredient, spilanthol, is an analgesic, hence the name toothache plant. In folk medicine, it’s been used for centuries to numb sore throats and toothaches.
The unique buzz flower can be used in food or eaten on its own, but it’s become a popular cocktail garnish to add another dimension to a drink or completely change its flavor profile.
The tingling and numbing sensation combined with increased salivation can bring out individual flavors in a cocktail and enliven the palate. As the effects slowly wear off, the flavors and intensity of the drink seems to change with each sip.
The Verbena Cocktail That Put Buzz Buttons on Cocktail Menus Across the U.S.
The Verbena Cosmopolitan drink is the buzz button cocktail that kicked off the craze in the U.S. Created by chief mixologist Mariena Mercer Boarini in 2010, the Verbena drink Cosmopolitan serves at the Chandelier Bar is its most widely ordered drink and the most famous of the 900+ original cocktails she has developed. In its first 8 years on the menu, the Verbena cocktail pulled in $9.4 million in sales and over 629,107 Verbanas ordered.
The Verbena cocktail features vodka, sweet ginger, lemon, lemongrass, ginger beer, and more exotic ingredients like coconut ginger rooibos tea and kaffir lime leaves, not the mention the Szechuan button garnish. You can see the authentic Verbena cocktail recipe here if you want to give it a try.
What Do Buzz Buttons Taste Like?
The Szechuan button flower itself has an unimpressive flavor – grassy with a slightly citrusy, sour flavor. Chew the whole Szechuan bud and you’ll definitely know you’re chewing on a flower. However, its fun effect more than makes up for its own lackluster flavor!
How to Use Szechuan Button Flowers
Szechuan buzz buttons can be chewed fresh and eaten or spit out. If you prefer not to chew a buzz button, you can easily muddle the petals of buzz button flowers in a drink, use them as a drink rim, infuse a cocktail with the spilanthol effects, or even try your hand at a buzz button tingling foam in a Fuzzy Tauntaun.
Don’t want to use the whole flowers or petals? There’s even a buzz button liquor now: Tingala is a spirit made from buzz buttons designed to be mixed with a savory, versatile flavor and distinctive tingling effect.
Where to Buy Szechuan Buttons
Want to try your own buzz button drink? You can buy buzz buttons from specialty stores, Etsy, or Amazon. You’ll usually find dried buzz buttons for sale, but they’re just as effective as fresh flowers and keep longer.
Anecdotally, I scattered some of the seeds from the dried buzz button flowers from this Etsy seller and they all germinated within a day! They state that their buzz buttons are air dried; seeds from flowers dehydrated with heat will probably not germinate. They also sell fresh buzz button flowers (only in season).
You’ll find two Szechuan button varieties: the Bullseye buzz button with yellow flowers and a bright red center and the Lemon Drop buzz button with completely yellow flowers. Aside from the difference in their appearance, they have the same electrifying effect.
Grow Your Own Buzz Button Plant
You can buy buzz button seeds (or just use the seeds from dried Szechuan buttons) to grow a buzz button plant at home. It can be grown in the garden as an annual in colder zones or as a perennial in warm climates. The toothache plant does not tolerate frost at all. It thrives in a garden or container.
I have several small buzz button plants cheerfully producing flowers regularly in my IKEA greenhouse!
Find out how to start a cocktail garden and grow buzz buttons and other fun cocktail herbs!
If you decide to grow your own toothache plant, you can even use the dark green leaves. Toothache leaves are edible and may be used in salads to impart a pepper-like flavor and zing or chewed for the numbing effects. The spilanthol is concentrated mostly in the flowers, so you won’t get as strong a tingling and numbing effect from the leaves.
Every Szechuan button flower produces hundreds of seeds. You can let one or more flowers dry on the plant. When the seed heads dry at the end of the season, shake out the seeds and you’re ready to start a whole new crop of toothache plants.
How to Preserve Szechuan Button Flowers
You can use buzz flowers you grow fresh, freeze them, or dehydrate them so they last longer. Freezing buzz buttons won’t affect the intensity and effect, but the color and texture of the flowers will change. The Szechuan buttons can be dried by hanging them and letting them air dry, dehydrating them in the oven on a low temperature setting, or by using a dehydrator. If you want to use the seeds later, air drying is best. Temperatures exceeding 110-120° in the oven or a dehydrator can make seeds nonviable. A food dehydrator with a low setting of 95° should preserve seed viability and give you perfectly dehydrated buzz buttons for future drinks!