Barbecues, fireworks, blankets on the ground, I stare at the sky thinking about how I have celebrated on the 4th of July and am flooded with memories. Where was I? A child–fireflies hanging low, the cool grass blanketed beneath me, a musical booming of the fireworks igniting. So many memories of the fireworks–on the Gulf of Mexico are multiple displays up and down the coast–a meditation of scale as they shrink to the horizon–mirrored by the sea as they illuminate hulking shadows of oil rigs and giant tanker ships. Another time–in the cool mountain air with just a whisper of snow as they break in waves of color and light above mountains backed by stars. Last year I stayed home in San Antonio and watched them rain down from the tower of the Americas and disappear into the city; this year, I am off to West Texas–knowing that I will create one more memory fueled with fireworks to join all the summers of my life.


John Trumbull’s painting of the Declaration of Independence, 1819

The declaration of Independence was signed the 4th–but America’s independence was actually passed unopposed two days before on the 2nd. In a strange turn of events, three of the first five presidents died on the 4th of July–John Adams, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson, who it is rumored wisely changed the wording of the Declaration of Independence from “the pursuit of property” to “the pursuit of happiness.” 


The first 4th celebration occurred in 1777. Congress chose to set off fireworks over Philadelphia as a way to celebrate their independence day. There is also a history of people celebrating with bonfires and bells which probably came to the new world from Elizabethan English customs.  July 4th became a federal holiday in the United States in 1941.

4thjuly1 queenpatriotic

Celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year is the biggest fireworks celebration in the nation–Macy’s Fireworks on the Hudson. First held in 1958, the display became a yearly event after working with the Walt Disney Company to celebrate the US’s 200th birthday.

two posters

Two vintage fireworks posters from 1958 and 1977

NEW YORK CITY - JUL 4: New York City Manhattan Independence Day firework show in Hudson River as annual traditional event to celebrate the birth of United States, July 4, 2010 in Manhattan, New York City.

New York City Manhattan Independence Day firework show in Hudson River


A familiar scene, but an etching of the Royal Fireworks display on the Thames, London, England in 1749.

Fireworks are thought to have began in China 2,000 years ago during the Tang dynasty. One legend is that they were discovered by chance by a cook who mixed charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter by accident– ingredients common in the kitchens of the time. Not only good for celebrating, the firecrackers were thought to have the power to fend off evil spirits. Births, death, birthdays, and the new year are all still celebrated with firecrackers in China.


Firecrackers are a must on the 4th, to ward off evil spirits and celebrate, but what to drink for luck on this memorable holiday?


Drinks made with red and blue fruit or food coloring abound, but what about playing to the color white in the RW&B with a Silver Gin fizz! Garnish with a few raspberry’s and blueberry’s and whats left to do but twirl a sprinkler and enjoy our countries birthday. Happy 4th of July!


A classic: the silver gin fizz

  • ½ tablespoon superfine sugar
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • 2 ounces gin, preferably Plymouth
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 ounces seltzer
  1. Dump two or three handfuls of cracked or shaved ice into a cocktail shaker and add everything but the seltzer. Shake energetically for a minute or more, then strain into a 6- to 8-ounce highball glass. Add seltzer and stir gently.