Remembering the Fallen Stories: A different kind of Memorial Day cocktail post

Emily Memorial Day

A Memorial Day blog post should be about fun and friends and amazing summer cocktails to serve at your barbeque. I get it. And I do have a cocktail that I’m eager to share with you. I promise. But first, let’s just take a second this Memorial Day morning to pay tribute to the fallen. I don’t just mean the fallen soldiers. This morning, I am thinking about the billions of folks whose stories have fallen away from our history.

The other day, I was stopped in my tracks by this posting on Facebook:

Even though it happens ALL THE TIME, it always stuns me when I learn that another story of an oppressed group has been left out of the history books in our country. I investigated a bit more about the first Memorial Day celebration being created by freed slaves in South Carolina and I stumbled upon David Blight, a professor of Civil War history at Yale. Please, do yourself the service of watching the lecture where he talks so eloquently about this buried, fallen story. (You can watch the whole lecture or you can just skip to the last chapter called “The Beginning of Memorial Day and Conclusion.”)

Other stories I stumbled upon of the earliest Memorial Day celebrations describe how it was the women who organized the rituals of placing flowers on graves of fallen soldiers. In fact, Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day because this act of adorning was central to and the whole point of the celebration.

This morning, as I think about eating and drinking with friends later on this beautiful sunny day in the Bay, I can’t help but also think of all the women (black and white), of the children, of the slaves and freed blacks who have fought and toiled and sacrificed for this country.  These are the people who encouraged us to celebrate and commemorate our fallen soldiers as a community.  Perhaps now it’s time to come together to celebrate and commemorate them.  Perhaps we need a national holiday to celebrate all of the unnamed, uncredited women and blacks in America whose deeds, great and small, have contributed greatly to American history but whose stories have yet to make it into the books.  Fallen Stories Day?

Plus, let’s be honest, another 3-day weekend wouldn’t hurt.

Here’s that cocktail, as promised.  I made up this cocktail on Saturday night when my friend Emily and her husband Hayden were visiting us.  After we enjoying some Brooklyns, I asked Emily what she wanted next and she said, “Make something up.  Something you haven’t made before.”  How bold of an order was that?  Loved it.  Since she loves Old Fashioneds, I started with that as a foundation and was inspired by what we had in the house – strawberries had just come in our Beet Box (a CSA box that supports local farmers of color) and basil was growing in our backyard, courtesy of my wife’s green thumb.  Boom.  A summer time, Memorial Day weekend cocktail that tastes friggin’ awesome and honors the work of women and people of color.  Time to drink and make new stories!

The Strawberry Basil Old Fashioned

strawberry basil old fashioned1 large strawberry
4-5 sprigs of basil
a dashes of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Simple Syrup
2 oz of bourbon (I used good ole Evan Williams)
Crushed Ice

Muddle the strawberry, basil, simple syrup and bitters in an old fashioned/rocks glass.  Fill the glass almost to the top with crushed ice.  Top with bourbon.  Stir and enjoy.

About the Author


Social Entrepreneur. Writer/Blogger. Theater teaching artist. Amateur mixologist. Girl Advocate. Writer. Fost/adopt mama. Learner. Playful Idealist. Find me on Twitter @lynnjohnson.


Alan Gary 26 May 2014

You are correct about “Decoration Day” When i was much younger , it was indeed called Decoration Day. I would get up in the very early morning, and along with veteran (WW one) father, would go to the American Legion office, and meet with many other vets and their kids We would then take hundreds of American Flags, and off we would go to decorate both memorials at the cemetery, and various plaques in the city It would tie us a full morning, and then we would return to the Legion office, and have lunch and talk about the day. As a very young boy, it was one of the most exciting days of the year. And, to some degree, the process continues but with a different name. Let us all remember those that sacrificed for us to enjoy our freedom. Alan G.


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