Cocktail Club: June Supplemental

So much to celebrate, Juneteenth, Dad figures, graduations, the start of summer and of course Pride! To mark these occasions, I have put together a box of flavors that I hope will take you into summer celebrations with happiness.

A little info on some of the origins of celebrations this month:

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19ththat the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Pride Month is celebrated every June in tribute to those involved in the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan in 1969. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

The spirits I have gathered this month were a no brainer:

Mt.Gay Rum, for the Red Drink inspiration, ‘I Put A Spell On You’ cocktail, I pay homage to Mt. Gay’s first female Master Blender Trudiann Branker. Mt. Gay out of Barbados and is one of the world’s oldest rum brands with a 300 year history.

A little bit about Red Drink; referred to as 'liquid soul.' Red drink is not just a color, it's a flavor. The first is hibiscus tea. Hibiscus is a plant native to West Africa, and its flower petals are used to make a tea called bissap—a hospitality drink that remains popular in several countries to this day. Depending upon the color of the fresh or dried flower petals used, hibiscus tea can range from cranberry-red to magenta-purple. As late as the 1700s, enslaved West Africans cultivated the plant in Jamaica, where a similar drink to bissap is called sorrel. As in West Africa, the hibiscus plant blooms around Christmastime in the Caribbean and is a popular holiday drink. The other traditional drink is kola (also spelled cola) nut tea. Kola nuts are red or white, and like hibiscus, West Africans use them as a sign of hospitality. Sometimes guests get the nuts to chew on, or the nuts are ground into a powder and used to make a drink. By the 19th century, kola nuts had acquired wonder drug status. They were believed to make bitter water palatable and to be a stimulant. As a result, kola nuts also crossed the Atlantic and were used on Caribbean plantations as a supposed energy drink. Given their reputation, it’s no surprise that pharmacists like John Pemberton used kola nuts as a key ingredient in new medicinal drinks like Coca-Cola.

Uncle Nearest Whiskey, named for the first African American Master Distiller on record in the US, the man who taught Jack Daniel to distill. CEO & Founder Fawn Weaver is the first female and the first person of color to run a major whiskey or spirit brand. The specific sample and whiskey expression suggested for the ‘Feeling Good’ cocktail is curated by Nearest’s Great-Great Granddaughter, my friend, Victoria Eady Butler. Read more about the story of Nearest Green and the brand at If you are ready for travel, the Nearest Green Distillery is reopening on Juneteenth for some mega celebrations, visit the website for more info.