“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”
-W. B. Yeats
This week I’m reviewing Jonathan Lee’s “High Dive” a retelling of the IRA’s 1984 failed assassination of Margaret Thatcher. The book’s searing description of the Troubles brought to mind Ireland and, of course, drinking. So I thought this would be a good chance to play around with my favorite Irish whiskey, Tullamore Dew. I was introduced to Tullamore at Four Courts in Arlington and I haven’t looked back since – I always find it to be a bit lighter, richer, herbal, and spicier than its more popular cousin, Jameson. I usually drink it on the rocks so I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was such a wonderful ingredient in mixed drinks! This was one of the few home mix sessions where I loved all three cocktails.
First was the “Ginger O’Collin” which takes the classic Collins mix and throws in some whiskey and ginger. This was my favorite drink of the night, with a great ginger punch – I muddled about 5 little pieces – and the perfect balance between refreshing, sweet, and poppy ingredients and the grainy, spicey tang of the Tullamore. Really a splendid summer evening drink.
- 2 oz Tullamore Dew
- 1 oz of lemon juice
- .75 oz simple syrup
- Club soda
Things got savory and winterish with the “Irish Frappuccino,” a delightful take on an Irish coffee. Now, you read the ingredient list and you know this is going to be a great dessert drink, with the dairy, sugar, and hot coffee collaborating for a sugary treat. However, it gets even better with the very light, very latent organic cut from the Tullamore – the coffee stimulates and the whiskey taste simmers. All I needed was a roaring fireplace and I’d be in heaven. Officially.
- 2 oz Tullamore Dew
- .5 oz Half and Half
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 2 oz coffee
- Whipped cream
Then we got festive by popping champagne with the “Cork County Bubbles“! Such a super taste from this one – the chartreuse grass taste is subtle here but adds the perfect mint kiss. Just when you think it can’t get any better, the savory honey kicks in, a lot of good sweetness here. And of course the Tullamore and champagne adds the perfect, power spirit backdrop to the earthy goodness. Honestly, this drink is so good, you just have to mass produce it at your next dinner party.
Cork County Bubbles
- 1 oz Tullamore Dew
- .25 oz Yellow Chartreuse
- .5 oz lemon juice
- 1 tsp honey mixed with 1/2 tsp of warm water
Following the 12 October 1984 Brighton bomb attack targeting Prime Minister Thatcher, the IRA released one of the more chilling humblebrags in history: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”
It’s against this backdrop of high-stakes politics and terror that Jonathan Lee’s sets two conventional human interest stories. In this wonderful novel, Lee mostly shies away from the tropes of the Troubles promoted in so many thrillers, instead telling the grounded narratives of an IRA operative charged with conducting an attack and the small family who owns his target.
With the focus away from gunplay and explosions, you might expect a slow, frustrating read. But on the contrary, I found High Dive nearly impossible to put down. Instead of being drawn in by the event, of which you as a reader in 2017 are already aware, you become entranced with the every day lives of terrorist and potential victims, your interest stoked by your knowledge of their final destination.
The main characters share the concerns of all adults- have their lives stalled in the dreariness of Belfast and Brighten? Have prior mistakes forever derailed their pursuit of past dreams? These micro-stories are told with great charm and skill and compel on their own; paired with a literal time bomb, they are irresistible. The reader becomes engrossed in these characters even if their travails, in the hands of a less talented author, would appear superfluous.
Told in this manner, High Dive does what no ordinary thriller can do: teach the reader that the victims and perpetrators of terror, who are so lionized or demonized after the act, were probably animated by the same petty concerns and fears as any ordinary person on the street. And perhaps that’s the most horrifying lesson of High Dive – no matter the drama and notoriety attached to the spectacular terrorist attack, the simultaneous destruction of so many simple dreams and aspirations is the greatest tragedy.