Juneteenth: A History, How to Celebrate, & Cocktail Recipes to Enjoy

While Juneteenth has only been a federal holiday since 2021, people across America have been celebrating the historical significance of this day for more than 100 years. Today, we’ll take a look at the history of Juneteenth, how you can join in the celebration, and some delicious cocktail recipes you can try your hand at. After all, no celebration is complete without something yummy to sip on! So, let’s jump right in and learn about Juneteenth!

When Is Juneteenth & What Is It?

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th each year. This date commemorates the day in 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, marking the end of slavery in the state. It is often referred to as “Freedom Day,” “Emancipation Day,” or “Juneteenth Independence Day.” Juneteenth has since become a significant holiday in the United States, honoring African American history, culture, and the ongoing pursuit of freedom and equality.

Fun Fact: The name “Juneteenth” is a fusion of “June” and “nineteenth,” signifying the date of the emancipation announcement. The observance of Juneteenth initially began in Texas, but as African Americans migrated to other states, they carried the tradition with them, spreading the significance and commemoration of the day.

When Is Juneteenth 2023?

This year, Juneteenth 2023 falls on a Monday. Juneteenth 2023 will be on Monday, June 19th, 2023. So, if you’re going to be participating in some Juneteenth 2023 celebrations, start looking and see if there are any events happening near you!

What’s the History of Juneteenth?

Juneteenth has roots in the final days of the American Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. 

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves in Confederate territory were to be set free. However, due to the limited reach of the Union Army and the resistance of Confederate states, it took time for the news of freedom to reach enslaved individuals in remote regions.

As we mentioned above, it was on June 19, 1865, that Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered General Order No. 3, which proclaimed the emancipation of enslaved people in the state. This momentous announcement, made more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, marked the liberation of the last remaining slaves in the Confederate states. The freed African Americans in Texas joyously celebrated their newfound freedom, and Juneteenth was born as a day of jubilation and reflection.

In the years following the initial Juneteenth celebrations, African American communities established a range of customs and rituals to honor the occasion. These included parades, barbecues, prayer gatherings, rodeos, and various forms of artistic expression. Juneteenth became a time to remember the hardships of slavery, celebrate the achievements of African Americans, and foster a sense of unity and community.

Becoming a National Movement & Official Holiday

Despite its grassroots origins, Juneteenth faced challenges in gaining widespread recognition and acknowledgment. It continued to be predominantly celebrated within African American communities for many decades. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement to elevate Juneteenth to a national level and ensure its acknowledgment as a significant moment in American history.

In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. Since then, numerous states have followed suit, recognizing Juneteenth as either a state holiday or observance. 

Efforts to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday gained momentum, and on June 17, 2021, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to establish Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed it into law, officially designating June 19th as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Fun Fact: This bill made Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983.

Today, Juneteenth serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring struggle for freedom, equality, and justice in the United States. It is a day to honor the resilience and contributions of African Americans throughout history and to continue the ongoing work towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

How Can I Celebrate Juneteenth, Too?

There are many meaningful ways to celebrate Juneteenth and honor its significance. Here are some ideas to help you commemorate and engage with this holiday, regardless of your family’s heritage:

#1: Learn More!

Take the time to learn about the history and significance of Juneteenth. Read books, watch documentaries, or explore online resources that delve into the emancipation of enslaved people and the journey towards freedom. Understanding the context and stories behind Juneteenth will enrich your celebration and increase your appreciation for America’s history.

#2: Go to Some Events

Look for Juneteenth events and celebrations in your local community. Many cities host parades, festivals, concerts, and educational programs during this time. Engage with these events to connect with others, experience the vibrant traditions, and support African American artists, performers, and organizations.

#3: Support African American-Owned Businesses

You can also use Juneteenth as an opportunity to uplift and support African American entrepreneurs and businesses. Explore local Black-owned businesses, restaurants, and shops. Purchase products, enjoy meals, or engage in services provided by these establishments to contribute to their success and economic empowerment. Maybe there’s even a Black-owned distillery near you that you could try!

#4: Engage in Social Justice Issues

Juneteenth is not only a time for celebration but also a call to action. Engage in community service projects that address social justice issues, inequality, and racial disparities. Volunteer your time with organizations working towards equity and justice, or participate in campaigns and initiatives that promote positive change.

#5: Support Relevant Causes

Consider making a donation to organizations dedicated to advancing racial justice, equality, and education. Look for charities, non-profit organizations, or community initiatives that align with the values and goals of Juneteenth. Your monetary or volunteer contribution can help create a lasting impact on the lives of local individuals and communities.

#6: Spread Knowledge and Awareness

Another thing you could do is to spread awareness and share the history and significance of Juneteenth with others! Create social media content or engage in conversations to promote understanding and appreciation for the holiday. Encourage others to celebrate and participate in Juneteenth activities. You could even snap a picture of a cocktail you’re trying today as you’re reading more about Juneteenth and the history that surrounds it!

Above all, remember that celebrating Juneteenth is about acknowledging the progress made, recognizing the work that still needs to be done, and fostering unity and solidarity among all communities. Embrace the spirit of the day by honoring the past, uplifting the present, and advocating for a future where equality and freedom are realized for all!

Why Red for Juneteenth Celebrations?

The color red holds symbolic significance in Juneteenth celebrations. It is often associated with the holiday and incorporated into various aspects of the festivities. There are a few different interpretations and explanations for the use of red in Juneteenth celebrations:

  1. Bloodshed and Resilience: One interpretation links the color red to the sacrifices and struggles endured by African Americans throughout history, particularly during the era of slavery. It represents the bloodshed, pain, and resilience of those who fought for freedom and equality.
  2. Emancipation and Triumph: Red can also symbolize the joy and triumph of emancipation. It represents the momentous occasion when enslaved African Americans in Texas and beyond were finally freed from bondage. The color signifies liberation, liberation from the shackles of slavery.
  3. African Cultural Significance: Red holds cultural significance in various African traditions. It is associated with spirituality, energy, power, and vitality. Incorporating the color red in Juneteenth celebrations can serve as a connection to African heritage and a celebration of African culture.
  4. Pan-Africanism and Unity: Red is often used as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, a movement that emphasizes unity, solidarity, and the shared history and experiences of people of African descent worldwide. Using red during Juneteenth festivities can express a sense of unity, solidarity, and pride among African Americans and the broader African diaspora.

It’s important to note that while the color red is commonly associated with Juneteenth, different communities and regions may have their own unique interpretations and traditions regarding the use of colors. The symbolism can vary, and it’s always a good idea to be mindful of local customs and practices when participating in Juneteenth celebrations.

Cocktail Recipes to Try for Juneteenth

If you’re looking for some unique cocktail recipes to mix up and sip on while you learn more about the history surrounding Juneteenth, we have some delicious choices for you. Let’s take a quick look at just a few of your options.

The Red Order No. 3

This delicious cocktail is best with some Texas whiskey or whiskey from a local Black-owned distillery near you.  You’ll need 1 ½ oz of whiskey, 2 oz lemon juice, 1 oz simple syrup, and 3 oz hibiscus & pomegranate mixer. To make this drink, shake the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain out into a mason jar with a handle over ice, then top with your mixer. Garnish with a candied lemon, and enjoy!

The Strawberry Soda

This cocktail packs a powerful strawberry flavor, and is gently complimented by notes from the fresh mint. 

  1. To make about 8-10 servings of this delicious beverage, first grab a liter of strawberry or lemon-lime soda. 
  2. To this, add ½ c of homemade strawberry syrup (1 c sugar, 1 c water, 1 c cleaned & cut strawberries, 2 tbsp lemon juice; cooked down and reduced). 
  3. Then, add ½ c lemon juice, a pint of fresh strawberries (cleaned and sliced in half), and several sprigs of mint.
  4. Finally, add about 2 cups of your favorite spirit. Spirits that work well for this cocktail are gin, white rum, and vodka.
  5. Add ice to your pitcher, then serve and enjoy!

Juneteenth Red Punch

For this delicious cocktail, you’ll need to prepare a batch of strawberry ginger syrup using 6 oz fresh strawberries (cleaned and halved), 1 c sugar, and ½ cup sliced, unpeeled ginger. Cook these three ingredients in ¾ cup of water for about 15 minutes, then strain when cool.

In a pitcher, mix together 6 oz of that syrup, 4 ½ oz cognac, 3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice, 3 oz unsweetened pomegranate juice, 2 oz lime juice, and 3 oz ginger beer. Pour the mixture evenly into glasses with ice, then top with a dry sparkling wine.

Garnish with fresh fruit or crystallized ginger if you like, then enjoy!


By Norm Johnson Jr.

If you’re looking for a delicious beverage that captures the flavors of blackberry, hibiscus, and blood orange, all while highlighting one of the oldest whiskeys in America, this is the cocktail for you.

First, muddle five blackberries with 1 ½ oz Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey 1856 in a cocktail shaker, then add 1 oz blood orange juice, ⅕ oz kola syrup, and a ½ oz hibiscus syrup. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, then stir.

The original recipe garnishes with a slice of blood orange, a blackberry, and a leaf or peeling from a green vegetable. 

Looking for Local Distilleries to Support?

Here at Distillery Nearby, we recommend that you support local distilleries, when possible. This helps support your local economy and helps you contribute to a more sustainable planet! Plus, locally-distilled spirits are delicious and characteristic of your area! However, finding local distilleries can be tough – that’s why we created Distillery Nearby. 

At Distillery Nearby, you can browse your local listings to find new experiences and spirits to try in your favorite cocktails. Plus, you might even find local Black-owned distilleries to support for Juneteenth (and other days of the year, too!).

So, go ahead and check out your state’s listings today to find that new spirit that’s just waiting to be added to your cocktail.

From all of us at Distillery Nearby,

We hope you have a fantastic Juneteenth


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