We are all familiar with the idea of reprising a television series or a movie. Some of these do-overs can be fantastic, hitting all the right notes, while others can be absolutely abysmal, threatening to ruin our memory of the original we enjoyed so much. I confess that I’ve spent some time recently binge watching And Just Like That, the largely popular reboot of the wildly successful HBO series Sex and the City. I did not expect to be wowed, but I most certainly was. Because there is such a wide range of quality when it comes to TV and film reprises, l think we’ve all come to approach them with a fair amount of caution. This led me to wonder what is it exactly that makes for a successful do-over? Why does one work, while another fails so miserably? In terms of And Just Like That, the answer has a lot to do with the fact that the new series captures the feeling of the original perfectly, yet moves the storyline in new directions that are completely unexpected. These shifts allow us to accept that the characters are on new journeys, and any new additions to the cast have become both comfortable and complementary. Even the absence of the beloved Samantha has been handled deftly, and in such a way that makes us feel as though she is still present, yet changed. Because And Just Like That bathes us in so much familiarity while making it clear that this is 2023, and not 1998, it made me think of the times that we try to reprise something in our own lives that comes from a certain time period or place. I wondered if there were any parallels that could be drawn between our own do-overs and Hollywood reboots. Does the same formula for success apply?
We’ve all experienced these moments when we we’ve decided that we’re going to revisit something. It could be a place or a person, a former role we played in what feels like another life, or a remnant of our childhood that rests just outside our conscious mind, turning up in dreams, luminous and large. I had the opportunity to do something like this a number of years back while my mom was still alive. Her childhood home, a brick row in Camden, had gone up for sale as part of a redevelopment program, and we decided to visit during an open house. She was so excited to go back, and I was too. This was my grandmother’s house, after all, and my head was filled with memories. The minute we stepped through the front door, however, we sensed that we might be in for some disappointment. It seemed as though there might be no memories to be found. Everything about the house had changed or had been removed: the layout, the staircase, the plaster walls and moldings. In their place was a newness that was hard to fathom, and I watched as my mom moved from room to room, searching for something, but finding nothing. The kitchen was especially empty with its new open style, and without its worn floor tiles and my grandmother at the stove cooking. At one point, I wandered up to the second floor, and when I returned my mom had disappeared. I found her down in the basement, smiling, as she showed me a corner where her father’s wine barrels had been. The smell, the walls, the floor… all were the same, and that was enough for her to feel as though this house was once her home. She closed her eyes and listened for echoes. When she heard them, she was ready to leave, satisfied that she’d found what she was looking for.
While it’s hard for me to know exactly what was in my mom’s mind that day, or what her expectations were, I can certainly guess at them. If any of us attempts to go back to a home that exists only in our memories, with the opportunity to actually go inside and wander freely through the rooms, I would think that what we’re trying to recapture is an essence or a feeling, and not necessarily an actuality. I also think it’s quite possible that we don’t immediately recognize that this is the case, and that It takes a moment of readjustment to get there. We might once again glimpse that certain way the light comes in that we remember so well, or look out a window with a familiar view, or smell a forgotten scent, with any of these leading us to a momentary echo of home that will simply have to be enough. This house is not ours anymore, and although we may allow ourselves to be bathed in that same sense of familiarity that a successful reprise captures so well, we have to return to the present with the knowledge that the memory can only infuse and influence our current situation. This same thing happens when we attempt to return to any place from another period in our lives, or even to reprise an old relationship or friendship that has not remained constant over the years. This is where our expectations have to be realistic; otherwise the experience will leave us feeling entirely disappointed. More than anything else, I think the key lies in the recognition that certain memories of the past are extremely powerful, and we often long to revisit the physical actuality of them. When given the chance to do so, we have to remain clear that we are returning as a changed person with a different perspective, and the only way to successfully carry the past forward is by allowing it to accompany us as a wise passenger on our new journey.
For today’s cocktail, I began with a rhubarb and ginger gin from Whitley Neill that my wonderful friend Patti gave to me, along with a spiced pear liqueur from St. George Spirits. I decided to combine the two of them together. I loved the fact that rhubarb is often seen as a symbol of transformation, that ginger is thought of as being filled with healing powers and pears as having the ability to bring inner calm. If we are revisiting a place from our past, or even just briefly returning to an earlier time that held some magic or joy for us, we are often hoping it will help to shift our current perspective, or heal a hurt or loss, and we long for the peace that should result from both of these. I added Lillet Blanc to bring in orange, floral, and herbal notes, along with a small amount of orange juice itself to intensify the combination. Two dashes of DRAM sage bitters, and a lemon expression on top with a zinnia garnish were the perfect finishing touches, both in terms of the cocktail’s flavors and it symbolism. They reflect wisdom, longevity, and remembrance, respectively. Cheers everyone. Happy Saturday! Listen for the echoes and then let them go.
Echo, Echo, Echo
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a martini or coupe glass.
Express a lemon peel on top and discard.
Garnish with a zinnia flower (if small) or zinnia petals (if large).
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