This year, I’m celebrating Juneteenth with a full glass of red drink. The color red represents resilience in the Black community, and its symbolism can be traced back before slavery to Africa. In the context of Juneteenth — an annual celebration honoring the liberation of enslaved Americans — the color represents the bloodshed of those striving for freedom. As a nod to that history, red drinks are a staple at any Juneteenth celebration.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m referring to color versus a flavor, but in all honesty, red is a flavor in the Black community. We say “red” for strawberry, cherry, watermelon, and hibiscus-flavored drinks because of the emblematic ties back to our checkered roots. But on Juneteenth, we celebrate progress — and we do it collectively.
Along with 40+ Black cooks, I celebrate via an initiative we call The Juneteenth Virtual Cookout, a recipe roundup of celebratory foods inspired by the Black experience. This year’s menu is full of red drink options like Mariama Bramble of The Brownbelle’s strawberry Collins, her Freedom Day spin on a traditional gin Collins. There are also refreshing family-friendly options on the list like the summer watermelon fizz and strawberry basil pineapple mocktail contributed by HandyChef’s Sharilyn Metellus, and Orchid and Sweet Tea’s Shanika Graham-White, respectively.
At the Temple household, there’s a battle brewing for the top red drink. My husband, chef Kenneth Temple, contributed his recipe for hibiscus rum punch to the Juneteenth Virtual Cookout, adding a hibiscus-infused simple syrup to his classic rum punch recipe.
But me? I’ll be refilling glasses with my homemade watermelon limeade. Right now is the best time for the sweetest and juiciest watermelons in Texas. So, like my ancestors, I’m blessing my guests with drinks that reflect the bounty of the season. This watermelon limeade is sweet, tangy, refreshing, and the perfect vehicle for booze, should you want to elevate it to a cocktail.
Check out the complete list of Juneteenth Virtual Cookout contributors to see not only red drinks, but also a full menu of entrees, sides, and desserts to cultivate the perfect at-home Juneteenth celebration.
Prep time 15 minutes
Serves4 to 6
- 8 cups
cubed seedless watermelon (about 2 1/2 pounds, from a 4-pound watermelon)
- 6 to 9
- 3/4 cup
Watermelon slices, lime wheels, or fresh mint, for garnish
Cut enough watermelon into 1-inch cubes until you have 8 cups. Transfer half to a blender and blend until smooth.
Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the blended watermelon through the strainer and press on the watermelon solids with a ladle to force more juice through. Discard the contents of the strainer. Repeat blending and straining the remaining watermelon. Rinse the blender out, then pour the strained juice back into the blender.
Juice 6 to 9 limes until you have 3/4 cup juice. Add the juice and 3/4 cup simple syrup to the blender and blend on low speed until combined. Skim any foam off the top.
Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until chilled, or serve over ice. Garnish with watermelon slices, lime slices, or fresh mint.
Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 5 days, and stir before serving.