The Cocktail: Blackberry Thyme Sparkler
Good evening ladies and gents. Can we all just imagine that I’m sitting in a leather chair by the fire in a smoking jacket, coughing because I’ve never actually smoked a pipe before? Awesome thanks. Now that we’ve set the mood, we can begin. Tonight’s book selection takes us back to the English countryside, but instead of frivolous games love and marriage, we’ll be venturing to gypsy camps deep in the woods and attending lavish parties in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
This week’s cocktail is for partying and petticoats.
1 cup blackberries + more for garnish
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bottle champagne
4 oz gin
4 long sprigs of thyme
Gold baking sugar for rim
1. In a small sauce pan, bring blackberries, water, and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the blackberries are soft and the simple syrup has turned to a bright pink/red-ish color. Remove from heat, drain blackberries, and allow to cool.
2. Prepare your champagne glasses. Ok, so here’s is a dirty little secret to getting those beautiful salts and sugars to stay atop the rim: butter. In adheres perfectly and you honestly never taste it. Place the tiniest bit…of butter between your fingers and rub just around the rim of the glass before dipping the glass into the gold baking sugar.
3. Next, begin by adding 1oz of gin to each champagne glass. Next, drop 2 blackberries in each glass, followed by 2oz of homemade blackberry simple syrup. Fill the rest of the glass with champagne and top with a sprig of thyme in each glass and enjoy!
The Books: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
Welcome back Mrs. Bray, It’s a joy to have your characters here. There are three books that make up this series and I found that reading them back to back to back was the most effective. I also couldn’t put them down… so I’m biased. The trilogy is made up of A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. They’re all fairly easy reads, but the books get longer as the story goes on. Something I never complain about. I’m one of those readers that loves a good sequel. If I can get more of the same story I’m as happy as a clam. As long as that clam isn’t being eaten. Anyway, for this reason, I won’t be giving a full summary but more of a general idea.
We begin in Bombay India in the 1890s. It’s Gemma’s 16th birthday and she and her mother are walking around the exotic marketplace. You’ll be happy to know that mothers and daughters bickered then, just like they do now. Gemma was pissy, and her mother was not in the mood. Your typical scorching hot day in the Indian marketplace. But this day was special. It was the first day of the rest of Gemma’s life. No, My Super Sweet 16 did not film her extravagant party and she didn’t cry because she got a Mercedes instead of a Ferrari. Thank god MTV didn’t exist back then. No, this life altering event was a bit bleaker. In the busy and dusty streets of Bombay it was not uncommon to bump into strange Indian men. However, it was uncommon for those men to know who your mother is and whisper something in her ear and then mysteriously disappear. Are you with me? Gemma and her mom literally ran into two men in cloaks and turbans and one of the men whispered something weird to Gemma’s mom. Unbeknownst to Gemma, her mom is part of an age old society called The Order which is essentially a coven of witches and it involves a lot of magical things and mysteriously attractive Indian men who have their own society. So after the men disappear Gemma’s mom has a mini freak out session and sends Gemma home. But before they part ways Gemma’s mom passes down her lucky necklace. Gemma doesn’t actually go home. In her sixteen year old angst Gemma decides that it would be a good idea to run through the back streets of Bombay instead. This is when Gemma has her first ‘vision’. She sees her mother and the Indian man from the marketplace die and now it’s up to her to solve the real mystery.
Gemma spends the rest of the trilogy in England where she attends Spence Academy for young girls. All the secrets to The Order are revealed, and Gemma and her four friends spend their time between this world and a world beyond ours, called The Realms. Gemma struggles with learning to be the ideal wife and enjoying the power and freedom The Realms give her.
Of course, there’s a love triangle. The second Indian man from the marketplace is actually the brother of the man who dies with Gemma’s mother. He is also part of an ancient society that devotes its’ time to magical things. He helps Gemma navigate her way through The Realms. He encourages her to fight and be the warrior he she knows she is. Then there’s Simon Middleton a fine match. But Simon sees Gemma as a thing possess rather than a person. Which is wrong. In case any of you were wondering.
I suppose the theme with this series is choices. Gemma must choose between the life that every other girl at Spence Academy will have, or the one she could make for herself. She must choose whom she lets influence her in this world and the other world.
I loved these books for a few reasons. First, they got me through the standardized testing days. CSAPS the Colorado Standardized blah blah blah which is called something else now was the worst part of life until about 10th grade. But these were my go to testing season books. After I finished graphing the statistical probability of a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar, I would pick up some Libba Bray and get lost in Gemma’s world.
As you probably noticed I tend to gravitate toward books with a strong female lead. It’s part of being a feminist. But I also really appreciate the time period of these books. Bray does such a wonderful job of romanticizing the Victorian age while revealing the darker more mysterious side of it. These books are true page turners. Each mystery Gemma and her friends solve, another one comes up. It’s fast paced, delicious, smart, and sexy all wrapped up in a time when poise and appearance were most important.
So grab A Great and Terrible Beauty, curl up with some hot tea, or Champagne and get lost in Gemma’s dark and mysterious world. You won’t want to leave.