blood orange white wine cocktails with campari + thyme

There is nothing like the vibrant color, sweet burst of flavor, and juicy texture that an orange can deliver in the middle of winter, especially on those cold, grey days like the one we had here in Denver yesterday. I only made it outside once yesterday and just for a moment. I fully understand the necessity of this darker season as a time for inner growth and renewal within nature. Even though my backyard garden looks dead, brown, and crusty right now, there is actually life flowing within the roots of those perennial plants underneath the snow. They’re anticipating spring’s arrival, and they’re getting ready for it.

Steve and I have already started planning what we’re going to plant in the garden this spring. I’ve even ordered some seeds to start indoors in a few weeks. And I can’t wait for that first crocus to pop through the leaves, followed closely by the daffodils and tulips. We have been faithfully watering the spots where we planted tulip bulbs this past fall, along the circular walkway we recently built in the front yard. In our minds, spring has already sprung. Simply imagining the new growth puts a smile on our faces and a lilt in our steps.

I recently read that with respect to taking vacations, the act of anticipating the getaway is just as exciting as actually going on the vacation. The happiness factor is equal. One thing that Steve and I are trying to do more frequently is plan little getaways. Having something fun to look forward to is bringing the two of us closer as a couple and keeping us motivated through the tough or dull times.

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

So, we booked a trip to Arizona last week!

I figured we had to put this resolution into play. I’ve never been to the desert southwest before, and we live so close by. Tickets were super cheap. I also have an excellent tour guide, since Steve used to live in Arizona for a while. He already has a few hikes chosen for us in the Sedona area. I know it’s the middle of winter, but I am hoping for a lot of sun and warmer temperatures at this lower latitude.

We picked a few days on the vacation calendar that would be quiet at the restaurant, just after Valentine’s weekend and just before the two-week craze of Denver Restaurant Week. We’ll be saving money since Steve’s brother has a place in Scotsdale, so lodging won’t be an issue. And his condo sports a large kitchen, so we can save money and cook in, if we want. I am sure we will hit up a couple of spots, since the food scene is so exciting there. In fact, we have already decided to go to dinner at FnB. Apparently, the chef and co-owner, Charleen Badman, is known as the “veggie whisperer.” I’m sold! Her seasonally driven menu boasts local vegetable varieties, along with a wine list that features some of Arizona’s best local wines.

I can’t wait!!

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

So, if you know of any not-to-be-missed spots in either Sedona or Scotsdale, please, fill me in!

I’d like to think that peak citrus season was perfectly timed to bring us that much-needed pop of color and flavor in the middle of winter. I’ve relished that refreshing, fragrant spray of zest every time I’ve peeled a blood orange this week. I think I’ve gone through nearly 50. I’ve made a few cocktails, of course, added a couple to my morning juice, and tossed wedges in a few salads already. I even have a batch of blood orange popsicles in the freezer this very moment that have a little Aperol and gin in them! I’m posting the recipe in a couple of days, but I’ve already set aside some extra juice just so that I can make another batch. Priorities, you know?

So, this recipe is actually a twist one that Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi sent me and created for the Super Bowl. Although I’m not the biggest football fan, I will show up and support Denver, since they’ve had such a stellar season. And I’ll definitely support them with this cocktail! Despite its light, pinkish color, this drink leans toward the bitter and herbaceous side, with the sweetness of the blood orange juice balanced by the bitter notes of the Campari. I made a thyme simple syrup and added it to the mix, along with a big splash of Pinot Grigio. This particular cocktail is light and sessionable, while remaining both complex and full of flavor.

And this cocktail isn’t heavy on the alcohol content. Think of it as a much more interesting and delicious white wine spritzer.


blood orange white wine cocktails with campari + thyme | the blood orange bronco


  • 6 ounces Pinot Grigio {I used Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi}
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce thyme simple syrup
  • 2 ounces soda water, to taste
  • sprigs of thyme, for garnish
  1. In a mixing tin, combine the Pinot Grigio, blood orange juice, Campari, and thyme simple syrup. Add ice and shake well to chill.
  2. Strain into two cocktail glasses or flutes filled with fresh ice.
  3. Top with soda water and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
  • This recipe yields two cocktails or one large version.
  • To make the thyme simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar and heat in a saucepan over medium heat, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and place a few sprigs of thyme in the syrup mixture and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain off the solids and let cool before serving. Mixture will keep refrigerated for up to a month.

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

This may be the least expensive wine I’ve mentioned here on this blog, but I am always searching for a great value, and I always try to keep an open mind. Generally speaking, I tend to find more great-tasting, inexpensive white wines, than I do red wines. Why is this? One of the reasons is that the oak barrels, in which most red wines are aged, are very costly. This, of course, affects the base price of the wine, as most white wines are aged in reusable stainless steel tanks. I also find that at around the $7-and-under price point, the un-oaked versions of white wine tend to taste better than their oakier companions do. Many cheap white wines substitute oak chips for barrel-aging, resulting in a wine with a less than cohesive or balanced flavor profile.

When you are looking to add wine to a cocktail, you don’t need to purchase the priciest one you come across, but you also don’t want to skimp on flavor or quality. The major flavor players in this cocktail are strong, and the wine component is simply there for a little fruit and acidity. This particular Pinot Grigio makes for a refreshing, simple sipper, a stellar cooking wine, and an excellent mixer in a cocktail. Robert Mondavi winery also sponsors the summer concert series at our restaurant. They also sponsor my end-of-the-shift sips after those crazy-busy Fridays. So, big thanks to them!


woodbridge by robert mondavi, pinot grigio, california, 2014


  • on the eyes  –  brilliant, very pale straw.
  • on the nose  –  bright citrus aromas, white flowers, honeydew, white peach.
  • on the palate  –  crisp with medium acidity and flavors that confirm the aromas.
  • on the table  –  pairs perfectly with a citrus salad, poached halibut, or oysters.
  • on the shelf  –  around $6.
  • on the ears  –  paired with Phantogram’s “Fall in Love” from their 2014 album, Voices. I love just about every track on this particular album, and if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. This track is pop-laced but still gritty, driven by Sarah Barthel’s classic, breathy vocals.

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & floraDo you use wine as a cocktail component? I’ve personally had a lot of fun incorporating it into cocktails lately. Wine is already a complex drink, with acidity, rich fruit flavors, and great aromatics. Using wine as a cocktail mixer helps to keep the alcohol level lower than the boozier spirits, like bourbon or gin.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with those blood orange popsicles and a blood orange sorbet cocktail. Until then, GO, BRONCOS!!

Cheers,

Jayme

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora DSC_4364 blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

 

 

Jayme Henderson

I am a sommelier-turned-farmer, who recently moved to Colorado's Western Slope to become a full-time grower of grapes and maker of wine. My husband, Steve, and I own and live on a vineyard, where we craft high-elevation white wine and rosé under our label, The Storm Cellar. I enjoy freelance writing and photography, and I am currently the cocktail columnist for Colorado's Spoke+Blossom magazine. I love playing with our two cats, gardening, mixing drinks, finding (and sipping!) great sparkling wine, cooking, playing the piano, and hiking.

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17 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sherrie Castellano (@withfoodandlove)

    February 8, 2016

    I have always said {mainly to myself} it is not a coincidence that citrus comes to us in the winter. Divine timing at its best. I am SO HAPPY you and Steve are headed to the desert. Besides the North East coast, it is my favorite place on earth. I have lots of recs, and I’ll text you, xx!!

    p.s. if you guys can swing a four hours drive west to Joshua Tree – DO IT. It will change your life.

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      February 8, 2016

      We are definitely up for a long drive!! I am hoping we can squeeze a trip to Joshua Tree. I have always wanted to go, and anything life-changing is something I should do! And on the citrus note, I find it no coincidence that orange is one of my favorite colors. It is so cheery and bright, both qualities that are so welcomed this time of year.

      I’ll be on the lookout for your ideas, Sherrie! I can’t WAIT for a change of scenery. Just visiting a new place and experiencing a different view, climate, or pace of life is good for the soul. I’m ready for a jump-start! XO!

  2. Reply

    linda \\ the baker who kerns

    February 9, 2016

    This cocktail looks absolutely stunning. I am crazy about how lovely pink drinks look! And I love your photography!

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      February 10, 2016

      Linda, thank you!! I love the way that blood orange juice expresses its color in a cocktail. It’s so beautiful – I agree. I am now obsessed with your cornmeal sweet potato pancakes with cumin. I am alllll about the savory and sweet combination.

  3. Reply

    spoonwithme

    February 10, 2016

    I am LOVING your vibrant beautiful photos on this one! I like the idea of a spritzer. I can’t drink a lot of alcohol, but I might be able to drink this one, if I use the sparkling water as a base and add the other ingredients to flavor it. I’m with you on the spring fever! This 70 degree day made me happy that the bulbs and roots underground are starting to stir!

  4. Reply

    Juliette

    February 22, 2016

    Definately a winner this one!

  5. Reply

    beautyadvisorbh

    February 22, 2016

    Looks amazing!

  6. Reply

    carmelloskitchen

    February 22, 2016

    Absolutely beautiful. I’m dying to give this a try soon!

  7. Reply

    Fallon Graham

    February 23, 2016

    Your blog is absolutely beautiful! I love your posts. This drink looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it! Keep up the amazing work.

  8. Reply

    fallingboss

    February 23, 2016

    It’s interesting that Campari is one of those things I never have in my otherwise well stocked bar. It might be worthwhile to pick up a bottle for this recipe. Thank you for posting.

  9. Reply

    Thefoodnerd

    February 25, 2016

    Hello, I love your articles, My grandmother is having a small party with her friends at home, I was wondering if you could give me some mock tail recipes to go with 🙂

  10. Reply

    escapecapades

    February 27, 2016

    Your pictures are amazing! And that drink looks delicious. I’m definitely going to try it. Campari always reminds me of the time I visited Tuscany. They have this drink called Spritz with Campari as the main ingredient.

  11. Reply

    The Oracle

    March 2, 2016

    I love the use of Herbs! Beautiful lets have these and then Opera!

  12. Reply

    Hudson Harvey

    July 16, 2019

    I like the idea of a spritzer. I can’t drink a lot of alcohol, but I might be able to drink this one, if I use the sparkling water as a base and add the other ingredients to flavor it. I’m with you on the spring fever! This 70 degree day made me happy that the bulbs and roots underground are starting to stir!

    • Reply

      Jayme Henderson

      July 31, 2019

      I am right there with you on keeping the alcohol levels low. Starting with sparkling water as a base is a great solution. Also, since you don’t drink a lot of alcohol, you should totally look into Seedlip alocohol-free distilled spirits. I am a little behind in responding to your comment – how did your bulbs do? We are now well into the 90-degree days, and everything is cranking and demanding water!

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