By Ed Sikov
Since we closed the beach house in late October, 310,692 Americans died of heart disease or coronaries. 9,992 people got murdered. 17,962 people killed themselves – 9,679 used guns, 4,272 chose hanging or other forms of suffocation, 3,810 poisoned themselves (Drano, Clorox, Taco Bell). And 851 left the planet by way of a miscellany of theatrical means ranging from the operatic (stabbing, drowning) to such spectacle-oriented last scenes as hurling themselves off skyscrapers and, my personal favorite – it really makes a bold statement – setting themselves on fire. In short, it was time to open up the house in Fire Island Pines.
Why so morbid? Like much of the country, Dan and I barely survived a truly rough winter in New York City. The temperature was beyond bitter (at least for us) that the city’s indigenous Common Grumpy ( grumpus vulgarus) morphed into the mutant Ticking Time Bomb ( explosivus imminentus). We all waited for the Post headline: “Massapequa Music Teacher Kills 7 at ‘Addams Family’ Matinee.”
It stopped being funny in February, when two friends died. They were, like me, in their 50s. The first to make his off-cue exit was my high school pal from back home in western Pennsylvania. We’d both wanted to become writers; one did, the other stayed in Natrona Heights. The second was my first serious boyfriend, the endlessly recovering substance user. They each ended up alone on the floors of their apartments. I had to get to the beach fast or I’d go insane.
I made my suitcase-laden way alone in a freezing rain to the Pines. Dan refused to join me, using terms like “crazy” and “self-destructive mourning” to describe my desperate journey of solitude, grief and (I hoped) renewal on such a crummy weekend. The weather was no big deal. I built a fire, made a vast amount of absurdly spicy chili, and developed a new cocktail in beautiful seclusion.
Housemate Frankie, the speed-talking restaurant manager, told me that herbal simple syrups were all the rage among Manhattan bartenders. So I adapted the traditional time-wasting (not-so-) Simple Syrup to my own move-fast, drink-faster pace: the Really Simple Syrup with Lavender. Here’s the result – a cousin of the Aviation. It’s tasteful and refined, something the Gillian Girl would order at an exclusive club in Beverly Hills. In memory of my “Valley of the Dolls” – loving Michael – it’s called the Anne Welles.
The Anne Welles
1/2 cup of Absolut (with two dead friends you get the Big Gulp)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon Creme de Violette
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon Really Simple Lavender Syrup – in other words, to taste.*
Chill a martini glass. Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and chill in the freezer for five or 10 minutes. Add a few ice cubes to the shaker, and shake hard. As with the Aviation, strain into the frosty glass and hope that a few shards of ice rise to the top. Admire the color; serve.
*Lavender Syrup: Brew 2/3 cup of strong lavender tea. (OK, you may not find lavender blossoms at Piggly Wiggly. You may have to go to a New Age store. Try not to throw up.) Strain out the blossoms, and pour the tea into a jar; add 2/3-cup sugar. Put the lid on and shake until the sugar dissolves. Store in the refrigerator.