bittersweet blood orange + bourbon punch | how to make stevia simple syrup for cocktails

cocktails, drinks, whiskey, winter

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I’m posting this just after savoring scarfing over half of a rosemary and caramel dark chocolate bar that I picked up at Meat + Cheese in Aspen on Monday. I don’t know how it’s lasted that long. I also kinda claimed it from Steve. It was technically my birthday chocolate, and I was seriously craving something sweet. I’d already downed the last two handfuls of dark chocolate chips from their mason jar home, so I was on the hunt, and did I ever SCORE.

This is the bar I’m referencing, and it was pure magic. I recently derailed from my resolve to limit sugar in my diet. I will add that it has been a lot of fun doing so. Case in point? This gorgeous cake was breakfast and lunch on Wednesday. My friend Hannah of Blue Sky Bakery here in Paonia whipped up this seven-layer chocolate and hazelnut dream-of-a-cake that I’ll have to request again next year. Hannah, put that on your calendar. 😉

One of my birthday resolutions, however, is to recommit to keeping sugar out of my daily consumption routine. I was on a good track earlier this year and even humorously shared my battle with sugar with you in December here in this post. Basically, if I could eat cake everyday, I would. Hannah’s chocolate cake, along with a glass of Schramsberg brut rosé and a bowl of peppered, Parmesan-dusted, truffle oil-doused popcorn, IF we’re being specific.

So far, in my series of recipes made with stevia-sweetened Zevia mixers, I’ve shared a sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni and a Tiki-inspired ginger apple swizzle. Since blood oranges are quickly making their exit from our local produce department, I’ve not only been stockpiling them to peel and eat, but I’ve also been crafting some blood orange-centric cocktails here at the house lately.

This large-format recipe calls for blood oranges, bourbon, Campari, and Zevia ginger ale. The secret ingredient, however, is a homemade rosemary-infused stevia simple syrup that’s the perfect consistency for blending into drinks. The resulting recipe a bittersweet punch that’s easy to assemble and stellar as both a party pitcher or a single-serving cocktail.

Have you ever tried making a stevia simple syrup? I gave it a go, using simply water and stevia, and the result was a tasty yet watery mixture that lacked the viscosity that’s so desirable in mixing cocktails. I did a little research online, and even thought I didn’t find any recipes for how to thicken a stevia simple syrup, I did come across this recipe and a few others for a stevia-sweetened pancake syrup that ended up inspiring me to experiment further with thickening agents.

This, my friends, is the delicious, plant-derived, rich result I’m sharing with you today.

I use thickening agents in my cooking all the time. Potato starch and corn starch make their way into various soups and sauces, yielding the richest of textures. I’d never tried thickening with guar gum or xanthan gum, however. Since my local health food store’s only option was guar gum, I took that home and began testing out some ratios for a made-for-cocktails stevia simple syrup.

Guar gum, derived from the ground seeds from an Indian tree, is a natural, gluten-free thickener and binder that’s perfect in liquids like soups, salad dressings, and syrups. It has eight times the thickening power of corn starch. Just a small amount thickens a cup’s worth of stevia simple syrup without imparting any unwanted flavor. For the recipe below, I used Bob’s Red Mill guar gum and was thrilled with the outcome.

rich stevia simple syrup for cocktails

  • 2 tablespoons stevia powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon guar gum
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the stevia powder and water.
  2. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to almost boiling, using a whisk to stir the stevia powder until well integrated.
  3. Remove from heat and add the guar gum, whisking until well dissolved.
  4. If you want to add any flavoring components, such as rosemary, add them now.
  5. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and strain off any solids from flavoring components, if used.
  • For this cocktail recipe, I made a rosemary stevia simple syrup. Simply add a sprig of fresh rosemary to a batch of stevia simple syrup that you recently removed from heat and let the rosemary sprig steep, until the mixture cools to room temperature.
  • Strangely, the two batches of stevia simple syrup that I made tasted better after sitting in the fridge overnight. The bitter flavor that sometimes comes through with stevia was less pronounced the next day, and the flavor remained stable after several days, along with the texture.
  • Similar to the shelf-life of a sugar-based simple syrup, store stevia simple syrup in the fridge for up to two weeks.

For the punch, opt for fresh blood oranges and take the time to juice them. There is nothing like freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and somehow, whiskey goes just perfectly with it. Remember the blood orange whiskey cocktails I made from a couple of years back? Those flavors are made to go together.

I recently tried both ginger beer and ginger ale from Zevia, and I really found that I preferred their ginger ale in this recipe. Its flavor profile is delicious and not-at-all bitter, and it’s naturally flavored with real ginger and citrus oils. The slightly bitter bite from the Campari is perfect with Zevia’s ginger ale. I think the ginger beer was too aggressive for the already pronounced flavors, even though I love their ginger beer as a cocktail mixer.

bittersweet blood orange + bourbon punch

  • 21 ounces bourbon or whiskey {I used Bulleit Bourbon}
  • 18 ounces freshly squeezed blood orange juice {about 8 or 9 oranges}
  • 3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice {about 3 medium-sized lemons}
  • 3 ounces rosemary stevia simple syrup {see recipe and notes above}
  • 3 ounces Campari
  • 30 ounces Zevia ginger ale {about 2 1/2 cans}
  • rosemary sprigs, for garnish
  • grilled blood orange slices, for garnish
  1. Juice your blood oranges and lemons.
  2. If garnishing with grilled blood orange slices, grill them now and set aside.
  3. In a large punch bowl, combine the bourbon, juices, stevia simple syrup, and Campari.
  4. Add ice and ginger ale, giving a good stir, and taste for balance.
  5. Ladle out into individual glasses, filled with fresh ice.
  6. Garnish with grilled orange slices and a small sprig of freshly picked rosemary.
  • This recipe yields about 12 servings. If you only want to make one cocktail, just divide the above increments by 12. This recipe also easily doubles, if you’re serving for a larger group.
  • If you like it bitter, adjust the amount of Campari to the final mix. You might want to add a little extra to amp up the bitterness.
  • I suggest making this punch ahead of time. Combine all of the ingredients, except the ginger ale, and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Add ginger ale at the last minute to retain its fizzy factor.

Let me know if you end up making this rich stevia simple syrup or giving this blood orange punch a go!

I’ll be using the leftover peels from juicing those blood oranges in a blood orange bitters recipe. I dehydrated the peels and ground them up. As soon as my shipment from Bulk Apothecary arrives with some gentian root and coriander seeds, I’ll be making a batch and hopefully sharing it here soon.

I say “hopefully” because we are approaching our busy season here at the vineyard. It’s looking like a warm spring, which means that the buds might break early. We are getting after our pruning, starting on the first of April. It will take three of us here, working sunup to sundown, two months straight, to prune our 17 acres of grapevines. Who knows when I’ll come up for air.

In the meantime, I’ll close with a few photos from our first BOTTLING!!

Although we can’t sell any of our wine quite yet, since The Storm Cellar isn’t a licensed winery, we can share it with friends, family, and the folks behind our project. Our team packaged up 22 cases of wine just over a week ago, and we even poured three bottles of our Sauvignon Blanc at a local wine dinner! Talk about being both proud and nervous at the same time. I’m guessing the face I made that night kind of looked like the one I’m making in the photo below. The 30 guests at the dinner that night all said encouraging things, so I’m taking that as a compliment and using that positive energy to move forward this year.

2018, I’m coming after you!! I’m declaring you one to remember!



PS – A big thanks to Zevia for making this post possible. Although Zevia sponsored this post and provided product, all words and opinions are 100% mine. I only support brands that I truly trust and actually use. You can find even more cocktail recipes using Zevia’s products, naturally sweetened by stevia, here.


Corks given to us from Rob Kimball of 5680′ Wines here in Paonia. #winewithaltitude

Bottling the “Field Blend” right here, a mashup of almost all the grapes on the property. It started out a bright magenta, imparted from the Pinot Noir, and turned into a lovely pale copper. It’s my favorite right now.

Our Sauvignon Blanc posing in front of our sleeping, dormant Sauvignon Blanc vines.

The “Field Blend” being gently pumped into the bottler, on its way to be labeled and ENJOYED!

Steve monitoring the bottling process. It feels a lot like Whack-a-Mole. You have to wait until the bottles fill, remove them, and then quickly replace them.

Maeve and Kyle using Rob’s old-school bottler on our back porch. It’s quite the workout.


  1. OMG OMG . I’m totally making these. I totally share your trials on sugar consumption. It’s a love/ hate relationship but I’m so much better without sugar. My body thanks me for it. Yum.

    • My body ALWAYS thanks me for moderating sugar, but the struggle is REAL. I really liked how this simple syrup turned out. Just the smallest amount of thickener was all I needed. SO good in a cocktail or in tea, and the fact that you can infuse herbs in it amps up its versatility. XO to you, Noelle!

  2. Joan Steese says:

    What a fun blog today!!! I enjoy connecting with you and Steve through the blogs. Mom Steese

    • We love you so much, Mom! 💞 Can’t wait until you’re out here in May – aren’t you so excited?! Thanks so, so much for saying hello! I ended up sharing chocolate with Steve, after all. 😏

  3. If the chocolate’s dark enough, the sugar barely even counts 😉 Cheers, Jayme!!

    • Exactly. 🙌🏼😏 I was talking to a woman today who stays away from chocolate because of her “weakness.” She eats an occasional unsweetened chocolate to get her fix. At that point, why even bother?! 😬

  4. Kim says:

    Interesting! I have never really thought about using stevia to sweeten any of the syrups we make for our cocktail bar. I suppose it is because I have always assumed, if you are drinking you are not too worried about sugar. The blood orange is a really nice touch though, we may have to come up with a blood orange cocktail!

    • I hadn’t thought about using a stevia-sweetened syrup, either, Kim. It’s been nice to have on hand for spirit-free drinks and tea. It’s fun to play around with, for sure!! And I’m missing blood orange season. I’m down to two nearly shriveled specimens. ☹️ Their juice will still be good!!

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