Monday is the 4th of July here in the U.S. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays – the early morning pancake breakfasts, the laid back lunch at the pool or beach, evening BBQs, and of course, the fireworks. But mostly, I guess, for me it’s all about the fun food and drinks. I’ve teamed up again with Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice to create two festive cocktails for the 4th of July using their newest juice, Tomato, and an old favorite, Natural Lemonade.
Natalie’s juices are all squeezed fresh which ensures the most delicious, fresh tasting juices and lemonade out there. And if you want the best recipe outcomes, well, then you better use the best ingredients. So that’s what we’re doing for these cocktails. (p.s. If you want non-alcoholic versions, I’ve included that in the notes below.)
The Natural Lemonade only contains lemon juice, cane sugar, and water. And the Tomato juice only contains squeezed fresh tomatoes and a little bit of lemon juice. That’s it! That makes a really big difference, I’m telling you.
Now, when you think of tomato juice cocktails, I’m sure the first one that comes to mind is a Bloody Mary. It’s the favorite of many brunch lovers. The most common recipe for a Bloody Mary contains tomato juice, vodka, Worcestershire, lime and/or lemon juice, hot sauce, horseradish, salt and pepper, and sometimes a little celery salt. And then there are infinite variations from there.
I’ve created my own take on a Bloody Mary using Natalie’s squeezed fresh tomato juice, cucumber vodka, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, smoked salt, celery salt, a big pinch of cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper. To quote my husband, “This tastes like a garden in a glass.” And then came the delightful burn that helped give this cocktail its name: Red Firecracker. So light, so refreshing, and basically what I want in my hand as I’m hanging out over the holiday weekend. Man is it good!
My recipe uses a little more tomato juice than other recipes because the flavor is more delicate than canned tomato juice. I wanted to taste the tomato in there, not just the spices.
Speaking of spices, the smoked salt adds such an interesting flavor element that we really love. I buy mine from a specialty market, but I’ve seen it in well-stocked grocery and kitchen stores. It’s now something I always have on hand. (I’ll share more ways we use it in another post.) From there, the other ingredients are pretty simple. We found an incredible cucumber vodka, thanks to my sister’s suggestion, at our liquor store and it is amazing. I’m not usually a fan of flavored vodka, but the cucumber flavor here is perfection, especially in this cocktail. We LOVED it. And we tried it with regular vodka, too, but we missed that nuance of cucumber. Trust me, it’s worth it!
You can go easy or heavy on the cayenne according to your preference. I put a nice big pinch because I love the heat that follows each sip. It’s sort of like firecrackers going off in your mouth. ;) I recommend not adding too much if you make this mixture ahead of time, for example, if you’re making a pitcher for a crowd. Let people add their own because it can get quite a bit spicier as it sits. (From experience. haha)
I probably don’t need to tell you that this Firecracker cocktail tastes infinitely better with this fresh squeezed juice than with that thick canned or bottle stuff you find on the grocery store shelves. (The kind that tastes like overly salty tomato sauce? You know? Yeah, you know.) This tastes like a ripe, juicy tomato…in juice form. That’s why everyone needs some Natalie’s in their fridge. (All of their flavors are crazy fresh and delicious, but I beg you to seek out the tomato juice. You will not be sorry!)
Red Firecracker (Cucumber Bloody Mary)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) Natalie’s Orchid Island Tomato Juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cucumber vodka
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon smoked salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
Large pinch ground cayenne
10 coarse grinds black pepper
2 cups crushed ice
Sliced cucumber rounds, for garnish
In a small pitcher or 16 ounce measuring cup, stir together the tomato juice, cucumber vodka, lemon juice, smoked and celery salts, cayenne, and black pepper. Taste and add more lemon, salt or pepper, to taste.
Place 1 cup ice each into two glasses. Pour the tomato mixture over the ice. Garnish with cucumber rounds. Serve immediately.
-To make ahead, prepare cocktail mixture, minus crushed ice, and store in fridge until ready to serve.
-To make for a crowd, quadruple the recipe and place in a large pitcher.
-To make a stronger cocktail, use 5-6 ounces of vodka.
And now for the Lemonade Sparkler!
As a companion to our Red Firecracker cocktail, I made a pitcher of Lemonade Sparkler. I went with my favorite flavor combo for this and that combo is elderflower liqueur (a.k.a. St Germaine…mmm…my very favorite), lemonade, blackberries, and sparkling water. We make some kind of version of this quite often in the summertime. It’s incredibly refreshing, and it’s fun to eat the berries afterwards. They soak up the bubbles from the water and the floral essence from the St. Germaine. Such a yummy little burst of flavor when the lemonade is all gone.
One thing I really love about using Natalie’s Natural Lemonade is that it’s sweet, but not TOO sweet. You know how sometimes lemonade is so sugary you wonder where the lemon is? Not this lemonade. It’s sweet enough to balance out the lemon, but you definitely know the lemon is there. It’s tart and refreshing like lemonade should be.
My recipe will serve 8. If you want a 1-2 servings, it’s easy enough to cut the recipe down. But I think it’s safe to say you’ll want a pitcher of this stuff. And it will last a few days in the fridge, if you leave out the ice and add the sparkling water just before serving. This is perfect for a party drink. Give the kids lemonade and give the grown-ups this stuff. They’ll love it.
Lemonade Sparkler (Sparkling St. Germaine Lemonade)
Two 16-ounce bottles Natalie’s Orchid Island Natural Lemonade, chilled
8 ounces St. Germaine (elderflower liqueur), chilled
1 quart sparkling water or club soda, chilled
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
2 large lemons, thinly sliced
In a large pitcher (86 ounces or larger), stir together the Natural Lemonade and St. Germaine. Add 1 cup of the blackberries, one sliced lemon, and a few cups of ice, then add enough sparkling water to fill pitcher to the top. Fill glasses or jars with ice. Add a few blackberries and lemon slice to each glass, then fill with the lemonade. Serve immediately.
-To make this non-alcoholic, use 1/2 cup elderflower syrup (found at Ikea and in some specialty stores) and use extra sparkling water to dilute, or it will be too sweet.
-For a stronger drink (wink, wink) use your favorite sparkling wine in place of all or some of the sparkling water. Or add 1/2 cup of vodka to the pitcher.
-Other berries and fruit can be subbed for the blackberries – cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and these recipes were developed in partnership with Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.