Technology. It’s something I’m new to. Ever the luddite, I switched to a smart phone ONLY when my job required it, before that I had happily rocked my high school flip phone. I was a lazy Facebooker, erratic Instagramer, and incredibly Twitter averse. Why? I’m not sure. I think the potential for time suck really terrified me. TV (at this time Mad Men had just arrived and claimed me) already demanded too much of my attention, and I found I read less and less every night. Add a dozen social media accounts? What would remain?
So it was with great trepidation that I started this blog, and opened a Twitter account, and actually started posting regularly on Instagram (I’ll admit the point of Facebook still escapes me). At first it all felt very forced, I’m not a quippy person, and my life’s newly imposed 140 character limit required quip. I’d go back to look at my early tweets to give you an example, but I’m too afraid to look.
Over time, though, I did get a little more involved in what seems to be the truly vibrant literature community that can be found on Twitter, and got turned on to a lot of great reads I’d been missing, none more so than a particularly brilliant translation out of New Directions. Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck was recommended to me on Twitter by someone whose taste I definitely trust — Caroline Casey, managing director of Coffee House Press. Maybe recommended is the wrong word. Urged. Ardently urged.
I was so struck by this urgency that I ran out to the Brookline Booksmith right then and – because they have pretty much everything – I was able to get it right away. I started it that night and finished it the next. An easy feat – its only 150 pages – but one I think I could have replicated even if it was 600. The book is that good.
Set in Germany, just outside Berlin, Visitation follows not so much a cast of characters, but rather a particular property. A beautiful home on a Brandenburg lake. While full of atmosphere, the home has no sense of the gothic, no House of Usher falling about. The house may be what binds the 12 people that reside there over time, but it has no agency of its own, no gloomy portents or creepy curses. It simply attends through the years, witness to escapes and wars, love and betrayal. Much like the gardener.
When I set about making a drink for Visitation, there was no doubt that I’d make it for the gardener. While not my favorite character or even the most sympathetic, the gardener – a man who stays with the house through all of its owners, old at the beginning, ancient by the end— is a parallel for the house itself. Always aware, never interfering, simply abiding the passage of time. The passages about the gardener as he goes about his seasonal duties are at the same time comforting and cruel. Life goes on, and whether you’re burying your silver to hide it from the coming hoards or planning your escape to South Africa, the lilacs will continue to bloom, and the bees will buzz about the apiary, and the willows will sway in the breeze by the lake.
And so it was with the garden and the gardener in mind that I concocted the following drink. Inspired by the many flowers in the yard and the gardener’s pet bees, I made a quick lavender honey syrup. I shook that with some gin and a bit of lime juice to cut the sweetness, and—once strained into a glass—topped it with Sekt, a German sparkling wine. Garnished with a fresh spring of lavender, it’s a drink made to honor all the best parts of the property, the beauty that its inhabitants found there, when they could stay.
Makes one drink
Lavender Honey Syrup
from The Art of the Bar
¼ cup dried culinary lavender (don’t use what you get at craft stores, you can’t eat that!)
½ cup honey
1 cup hot water (180° to 200° F)
Combine the ingredients in a heat proof bowl and stir until the honey dissolves. Let sit until the water cools, then strain to remove lavender. Discard lavender and pour the syrup into a bottle. Keeps in the refrigerator for one month.
For the Drink
1 ½ ounce gin
¾ ounce lavender honey syrup
½ ounce lime juice
Sekt (or sparkling wine of your choice)
Shake the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a lavender spring.