June 19th marks the newest American holiday — Juneteenth! It celebrates an important Black historical event that’s over a century old (about time it went national!).
Unsure what this holiday is or how to celebrate it? We’ll walk you through the history and share a few of our favorite Juneteenth cocktails so you can raise a glass to freedom this year. After all, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “No one is free until we are all free.” That’s definitely a cause worth celebrating!
What Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth may be one of the most important parts of history you weren’t taught in school. While we could spend an entire article discussing its historical significance (we strongly urge you to do your own research), we wanted to give you at least the basics.
Juneteenth is short for June Nineteenth, the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed they had been freed. If that date doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because we’re often taught that the Emancipation Proclamation automatically freed everyone after it was signed by Abraham Lincoln on January 1st, 1863.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of speedy communication (and resistant enslavers), it took two and a half years to be fully enacted. However, slavery wasn’t officially abolished until the controversial 13th Amendment was adopted on December 18th, 1865.
The first Juneteenth celebration happened in Texas the following year, in 1866. Then it was known as Jubilee Day. This began an annual tradition of getting together and celebrating through food, music, prayer services, and activities.
Why Red Food and Drink?
One of the traditional ways to celebrate Juneteeth is by enjoying red foods and drinks. While it’s unclear exactly how this tradition started, many believe that it may have come from traditions enslaved Yoruba, Asante, and Kongo people brought with them. Red symbolizes life, death, spirituality, and strength in many West African cultures.
Many of the food enjoyed on Juneteeth have similar roots in West African culture. While not all of the foods are red, many of the most traditional, like kola nuts and hibiscus, are. As enslaved people started to form their own households and communities, they brought those traditional foods into more modern additions. Lemonades and teas infused with red fruits, like cherries and strawberries, are still common in the South today.
The Top Juneteenth Cocktails To Celebrate With
Let’s put those traditions into practice with a few red Juneteenth cocktails that can add fun and flavor to your celebrations.
1. Strawberry Basil Smash
Juneteenth falls at the end of strawberry season, so don’t wait on this delicious seasonal cocktail!
To make two cocktails, you’ll need:
- 4 - 6 fresh strawberries
- 2 ounces fresh lime juice
- 2 ounces simple syrup
- 1 ounce vodka
- 2 ounces Haus Strawberry Basil
- Fresh basil (if desired)
Start by washing the strawberries, removing the stems, and cutting them in half. Muddle the strawberries in a mixing glass, adding a pinch of freshly chopped or torn basil if desired (a little goes a long way).
Add lime juice, simple syrup, vodka, and Haus Strawberry Basil. Shake with ice until chilled. Depending on whether you want chunks of fruit in your drink, pour or strain the mix over ice into rocks glasses. Finish by garnishing with a fresh strawberry.
2. Pomegranate Rosemary Hibiscus Highball
Hibiscus is native to West Africa, so you’ll see it frequently in Juneteenth cocktails (and other non-alcoholic drinks). To honor the tradition, we wanted a drink that packed a flavor punch while still showcasing the flavor of hibiscus.
For two cocktails, you’ll need:
- 2 ounces Haus Pomegranate Rosemary
- 8 - 12 fresh, pitted black cherries
- 1.5 ounce Lillet Blanc
- 1.5 ounce fresh pink grapefruit juice
- 0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups fresh-brewed, chilled hibiscus tea
- Fresh rosemary sprigs (if desired)
Destrem, wash, and muddle the cherries (making sure their pits are removed) in a mixing glass. Add ice, Haus Pomegranate Rosemary, Lillet Blanc, and grapefruit and lemon juices.
Stir gently to combine (do not shake). Pour or strain over ice into highball glasses. Straining will remove more of the cherry chunks if that’s not your thing. Then top off with some hibiscus tea. If desired, garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary or grapefruit wedge.
3. Big Red Margarita
Big Red cream soda is a Texas favorite and has been a staple of Juneteenth celebrations since 1920. Instead of just pouring yourself a glass and throwing in a shot of whiskey, go for something new! Try one of our favorite Juneteenth cocktails using Big Red that you can quickly throw together and impress your friends.
Here’s all you’ll need for four Big Red margaritas:
- 10 ounces Big Red
- 4 ounces Tequila Blanco
- 2 ounces Blue Curacao
- 2 ounces Grenadine (preferably cherry)
- 2 ounces of your favorite variety of Pucker
- Lime and margarita salt for garnish (if desired)
Start by mixing the Big Red, Tequila Blanco, Grenadine, and Pucker in a pitcher with ice, stirring until chilled. Use a lime wedge to coat the outer rim of each margarita glass, then dip into the margarita salt to coat.
Add ice to each glass, and pour in your chilled margarita base. Before serving, gently pour half an ounce of Blue Curacao over each margarita, garnish with a lime wedge, cheers, and enjoy!
4. Ginger Yuzu Hibiscus Spritz
Our Ginger Yuzu Hibiscus Spritz cocktail again uses the traditional hibiscus flavor while adding a fresh, spicy twist. If you’re unfamiliar with yuzu, it’s a tart citrus fruit from Japan that’s slightly less acidic than lemon.
Here’s what you’ll need for two spritzes:
- 6 ounces Haus Ginger Yuzu
- 4 ounces Prosecco (or the sparkling white wine of your choice)
- 1 cup fresh-brewed, chilled hibiscus tea
- Lemon wedges to garnish
Divide the Haus Ginger Yuzu equally between two white wine glasses over ice. Add a splash or two of hibiscus tea to each and stir gently. Top with the prosecco, garnish with a lemon wedge, and serve cold.
This recipe could also easily be turned into a mule by replacing the Prosecco with ginger beer and serving it in copper mugs.
5. Strawberry Cognac Punch
We've got the perfect option if you want Juneteenth cocktails that you can serve in larger quantities. This punch recipe is more labor-intensive than the others but look no further if you want a real show-stopper. This recipe makes six cocktails.
- 1.5 cups fresh strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 0.5 cup fresh ginger
- 4.5 ounces Cognac (dark rum or whiskey can also be substituted)
- 3 ounces pineapple juice
- 3 ounces pomegranate juice (try substituting Haus Pomegranate Rosemary for a fun twist)
- 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 ounces ginger beer
- 12 ounces Prosecco
You’ll start by making a strawberry syrup. Wash, hull, and halve the strawberries and add them to a saucepan with the sugar and ¾ cup of water. You can also replace half of the water with Haus Strawberry Basil, but be careful as alcohol can be flammable.
Slice, but don’t peel the ginger and add it, then bring the saucepan to a simmer using low heat. Without letting it boil and only occasionally stirring, cook the syrup for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced. Cover with a lid, and remove from the heat. Let it sit and cool to room temperature.
Once the syrup has cooled, pass it through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing the pulp until you have about a cup. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use. The syrup will last up to a week in the fridge if you prefer to make your syrup ahead of your company's arrival.
When you’re ready to assemble the rest of the punch, add six ounces of strawberry syrup, Cognac, pineapple, pomegranate and lime juices, and ginger beer to a pitcher. Stir gently. Serve over ice in old-fashioned glasses, topping each with two ounces of Prosecco and garnishing with a strawberry.
Other Ways To Celebrate Juneteenth
In addition to raising a glass this June 19th, there are other ways that you can celebrate the holiday.
One of the best ways to honor the importance of Juneteenth is by seeking out and purchasing from Black-owned businesses. Listen to Black artists, read books and poetry by Black authors, and watch shows written by and featuring Black families and actors.
You can also seek out local events, which will allow you to see the culture and learn from the people involved in putting them together. Find a local Opal’s Walk for Freedom, a nationwide event founded by Dr. Opal Lee, who was one of the biggest advocates for getting Juneteenth recognized as a national holiday. The walk is 2.5 miles long, honoring the 2.5 years it took for the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach all enslaved people.
Whatever you choose to do, approach the holiday with a spirit of openness, learning, and celebration. We’re never too old to learn something and do better!
Knowing the history of enslaved people in the United States is crucial whether you are Black or any other color. When we celebrate Juneteenth, we acknowledge how far we’ve come and how much further we have left to go.
Raising Juneteenth cocktails and celebrating the holiday in a way they would have in the late 1800s honors the struggle while also paying homage to the joy they felt when receiving the news of their freedom so long ago. Cheers!