sparkling spiced blackberry negronis | adding flavor with fruits + infusions

Writing this post has gotten me excited about planning our new garden this spring. I’ve missed all of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs growing just outside my backdoor. Granted, we have some amazing farms out here on the western slope, so I haven’t gone without, but there’s nothing like tending and growing your own. Cocktail gardens included.

This past fall, we tilled up the yard around our house, and we ordered some no-mow, low-water grass seed to fill in the almost dust-bowl-like terrain we’ve got going on now. I’ve got a couple of “wish list” plants bookmarked over at High Country Gardens, and those, along with some seeds I’ve either saved or been gifted, are going to colorfully make their way into our lives in a few months. I can’t wait!

Let’s talk about naturally adding flavor in cocktails for a moment.

Did you make any resolutions to eat healthier or drink less? Or maybe your goal is to make healthier versions of your favorite cocktails? This line of thought is on the radar of many home bartenders {myself included} and mixologists around the country. In fact, the appearance of healthier cocktails is one of the projected trends for 2018, according to publications like Supercall and Industry Juice. I’m definitely excited to make and drink more juice- or kombucha-based cocktails and see more low-ABV or alcohol-free drinks available whenever I go out.

I’ve always been a proponent for cocktails flavored with fresh fruits and vegetables, infusions, and less sugar — or even none at all. Drinks simply taste better, when they’re made with fresh ingredients. Think about those florescent-hued, cloyingly sweet drinks you’ve had before. They might be pretty, but their headache is never worth any temporary “enjoyment.”

Two of my personal favorite ways to add flavor to cocktails without adding extra, unwanted sugar is by using fresh fruits and vegetables and by making infusions. I’ve also been enjoying adding Zevia’s stevia-based mixers to my drinks, like the Ginger Apple Swizzle from a few posts back. This sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni gets its flavor from fresh blackberries and Zevia blackberry sparkling water. I’m happy to share another cocktail that’s on the lighter but more flavorful side with you.

Any way I can add flavor without the calories or unwanted chemical substitutes, I’m in.

Let’s get after infusions next.

Do you make your own infusions? Several years ago, I started out infusing vodka with fruits and herbs, simply because the spirit itself is relatively neutral. Giving it a vibrant color or a hit of flavor was an easy way to add layers to a potentially flavorless drink. I ventured out and started infusing vegetables into my spirits, like this snap pea-infused gin. Then I broke out and basically thought of everything on my shelf as infuse-able.

Grilled peach and toasted pecan-infused bourbon.

Hibiscus-infused gin.

Granny Smith apple-infused Pisco.

Black tea and spice-infused vermouth.

I was hooked. Tea is actually one of my favorite components to infuse into spirits. It adds a little tannin and is a carrier for any other ingredients within the tea blend. For this vermouth infusion, I chose one of my favorite producers, Carpano Antica Formula, and I infused it with an orange spice black tea to add to this blackberry Negroni. And it’s super easy: there’s no need to actually brew the tea. Just add two tea bags or the loose-leaf equivalent, pour in your vermouth, and wait.


spiced orange tea-infused vermouth


  • 8 ounces sweet vermouth {I used Carpano Antica}
  • 2 bags of spiced orange tea {like Stash’s orange spice black tea}
  • 2 cracked cardamom pods
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 star anise pods
  1. Pour the sweet vermouth into a glass or mason jar and add the spiced orange tea bags.
  2. You can stop right here, or you can go ahead and pack even more complexity into the mix by adding the cardamom pods, peppercorns, and star anise pods.
  3. Let the mixture steep for one hour, taste for desired potency, and strain, removing the solids.
  4. Store in the refrigerator as you would normally store your sweet vermouth.
  • This infused vermouth is superb in Manhattans or any cocktail that calls for vermouth and marries well with citrusy, spiced tones.

I’ve shared my affection for the Negroni here on the blog before, and the drink itself is having is day in the sun. It’s actually having its week in the sun and doesn’t show signs of stepping out of the way. My friend Kendra Anderson just opened a sparkling wine and Negroni-themed bar this past fall, and she curates an entire Negroni LIST. If you’re ever in Denver in the RiNo Art District, stop by Bar Helix and give one of her iterations a go. My advice? Start with her house Negroni. It’s got some quality spirits and solid creative thought behind it: Barr Hill’s Old Tom gin, Montanaro 6PM Aperitivo, and Carpano Antica Formula.

For the cocktail I’m sharing today, I am layering flavors and textures for a fruity, spiced, and sparkling Negroni riff that finishes with its classic and beloved bitterness. The infused vermouth is packed with notes of dried orange peel and baking spices, perfectly matched with the blackberries and sultry vermouth. For the sparkling finish, I used Zevia’s blackberry sparkling water. It’s naturally sweetened with stevia, a plant-based sweetener that’s {thankfully} free of calories.


sparkling spiced blackberry negroni


  1. In a cocktail glass, gently muddle four of the blackberries.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine the gin, Campari, and infused sweet vermouth.
  3. Add ice and stir until chilled.
  4. Strain into the prepped cocktail glass and top with lemon juice and Zevia blackberry sparkling water.
  5. Garnish with two skewered blackberries and a sprig or two of fresh thyme.
  • This recipe yields one cocktail.
  • Don’t skip the lemon juice. Because of the spirit-forward nature of the drink, along with the subtle nature of the blackberries, a little kick of citrus brightens and balances the cocktail.

I’ll close with a few tips for making the best infusions possible. My best advice is to taste along the way and err on a shorter infusion time. You can always infuse a little longer, but if you’re using a pricier spirit, you’ll regret over-infusing it and perhaps rendering it unusable.


tips on infusions


  • Always use high quality spirits when infusing.
  • Know your timing. High-proof spirits take a shorter amount of time to soak up flavor, while lower-proof spirits, like the vermouth here, take a little longer. Taste along the way, until you reach your desired intensity.
  • Always use fresh, ripe, unblemished fruits, vegetables, and herbs. If an organic option is available, go for it.
  • Be sure to use a well-cleaned infusion vessel. My favorite container is a quart-sized mason jar with a screw-top plastic lid.
  • A tip I picked up both from my bartending days and by reading Death & Co.’s cocktail book is to always save your booze bottles, so that you can use them for storage later.

Cheers to the rest of the weekend! We getting some snow here in Paonia over the next couple of days. I know the grapevines will love it, and even though it will slow the pace here, I am excited to tackle some indoor projects. We are ALMOST finished with our bathroom remodel! I can’t wait to share photos when it’s complete. I also finished painting our in-wall wine cabinet I’ve been documenting over on Instagram stories. It felt so great to unpack eight boxes of wine and get them out from underneath the bed.

Clutter, be gone.

Do you want to see more low-proof, healthier, or alcohol-free drinks on the blog? I’m thinking of sharing a kombucha how-to and even some of my indulgences like golden milk lattes and more shrub recipes. What are your thoughts? I’m definitely in for all of these ideas!

XO,

Jayme

Again, thank you for supporting the partnerships here on holly & flora that allow me to keep bringing all the delicious and healthier cocktails your way. While Zevia did sponsor this post, all thoughts, photos, and opinions are my own.

7 thoughts on “sparkling spiced blackberry negronis | adding flavor with fruits + infusions

    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Thanks, Keira! I can’t wait for peach season to crank back up again for that very same reason! I only have two cocktails’ worth of peach bourbon left. Starting to stress about it. 😜 Also, I’ll be dropping through Winter Haven next week, and I’d love to pop by your shop! I’ll send you an email! XO

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  1. Kelsey @ Appeasing a Food Geek

    I’ve been making and selecting drinks with much less sugar over the past couple of years, and now I find sugary drinks pretty gross–especially when they’re fruity! I like your infusions note and being a proponent of less sugar. Also, these photos are gorg! I love the color of that drink. Hope all is well! xo

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    Reply
    1. Jayme Henderson Post author

      Thanks, Kelsey!! And same here. 🙌🏼 If I do add a syrup or sugar to a cocktail, it’s only to bring a little balance to the drink, but so many times you can do the same with fruit! I’m really trying to not consume so much sugar, but it is HARRRRDD at times. 😫 All is well bc I’m going to visit my family in three days! It’s been way too long, and it’s all that’s on my mind. Hope you’re well, too!! 😘😘

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  2. Pingback: bittersweet blood orange + bourbon punch | how to make stevia simple syrup for cocktails | holly & flora

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