Partygoers, Red Bull fans, and media gathered at Whitaker & Atlantic last night to celebrate the launch of ORGANICS by Red Bull, a new line of organic sodas that made its stateside debut in the Triangle, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem, as well as San Diego. The caffeine-free sodas, all made with organic sugar and clocking in under one hundred calories, come in four flavors: Simply Cola, lightly carbonated and spicier than your average cola; Tonic Water, with lemon-lime flavors and a touch of herbal bitterness; Ginger Ale, a spicier, more grown-up take; and Bitter Lemon, full of citrus notes with an herbal hit.

Although tasty straight out of the can, the sodas were showcased at the event in cocktails created by the Cocktail Bandits, Johnny Caldwell and Taneka Reaves, the popular Charleston-based beverage blogging duo. Johnny and ‘Neka shared that they wanted to make simple drinks that didn’t require too many ingredients so that they could easily be recreated at home. With ORGANICS sodas’ complex fruit and herbal flavor profiles already built in, they had a head start.

They crafted twenty recipes for Red Bull and sampled four at the launch event. With the cola they made an elevated rum and coke spiked with Kahlúa. The tonic water was paired with vodka, but the Bandits promise that it’s also fantastic with cucumber-spiked gin. The ginger ale was paired with tequila for a bracing drink with a spicy kick.

But the prettiest cocktail and favorite of the night was the Aperol Hit. Aperol is a bitter, herbal Italian aperitif like Campari but slightly sweeter, with a lower alcohol content and bitter orange notes. The recipe came from ‘Neka, who developed a taste for it after spending time in Italy and enjoying the liqueur in light cocktails designed to be enjoyed throughout the day. Make the recipe (shared below) and serve anytime, from elegant dinner parties to Sunday Funday.

It wouldn’t be a party in North Carolina without barbecue, and who better to deliver on that porcine promise than Sam Jones, the revered, sixth-generation pitmaster who helms his family’s historic Skylight Inn in Ayden and his new Winterville venture, Sam Jones Barbecue. The whole-hog ’cue was rounded out with sides from Whitaker & Atlantic’s and PoshNosh Catering’s chef-owner Coleen Speaks, including roasted radishes, succotash, dirty rice, and a vibrant strawberry and goat cheese salad drizzled with a perky lemon dressing.

Partygoers raised signature cocktails to celebrate not only the launch of Red Bull’s new organic soda line but also the upcoming release of the Cocktail Bandits’ debut book, Holy Spirits! (available April 20 and for pre-order here). The book, which explores the history and cocktail culture of Charleston, marks the pair’s publishing debut and is also the first book about spirits authored by women of color.

Aperol Hits
Recipe courtesy Cocktail Bandits

1.5 oz Aperol
.5 oz orange juice
ORGANICS by Red Bull Bitter Lemon

Shake and strain over ice and top with Red Bull ORGANICS Bitter Lemon soda.