Booktails from the Potions Library, with Mixologist Lindsay Merbaum


In Claire Vaye Watkins’ novel I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, an author likewise named Claire Vaye Watkins has a new baby, a successful writing career, and a kind husband. She is also desperately and dangerously depressed. When Claire books a speaking engagement in Reno, the visit turns into a reckless, rollicking escape from her life in Michigan: “I am not choosing darkness,” she narrates, “but darkness is choosing me.” As Claire wanders a sometimes literal, sometimes metaphoric desert landscape populated with lovers and ghosts, drugs, living corpses, Bitcoin bros, animals, eccentric artists, and her own infamous father who was part of Manson’s Family, parallels between the dysfunction of the present and past appear. Ultimately, walking away might be Claire’s only path back to herself:  “[…] I like it in the mountains, I like it on the coast. I like it in the wild, and if not the wild then at least near water, at least under a tree, at least smelling of campfire, of whiskey, of weed.” 

Given the addictions many characters in this novel face, this booktail is a mocktail, made with tart pomegranate juice for “the pomegranates that remind me of home.” The juice’s color matches the menstrual blood Claire’s mother Martha feeds her garden in Tecopa, where they cultivate grapevines, dates, figs, palms, bamboo, and mint from cuttings. Later, they move in with Martha’s boyfriend in Trout Canyon where there are “wild juniper, cherry and apricot trees, blackberry brambles climbing the chain-link.” For this abundant desert wilderness that provides some of Claire’s earliest homes, the pomegranate juice is mixed with blackberry shrub. The shrub is made with blackberries, white vinegar, agave for the agave plants Martha steals, and lime for the Amy’s brand pad thai, which Claire microwaves in the faculty kitchen at work, while yearning desperately for a rush and reality escape with “her biologist.” The drink is served on the rocks and garnished with mint for the animals, cattails, mint, and aspirin bark living along the Amargosa River. 

This booktail is presented against a bright, cheerfully trippy backdrop that reflects shades of pink and blue. The book and booktail stand in peach and aquamarine sugar sand, amethyst and rose quartz framing the book’s left side for “desert basin splashed with turquoise, aquamarine, smears of amethyst, rose quartz, folds of charcoal and onyx sparkling above dry lake beds of bleached bones dust.” Beside the faceted glass filled with deep red-purple liquid lies a small tooth in honor of the ring of vagina teeth (yes this is a real thing, it’s called vaginal dermoid cysts) Claire cuts after giving birth. 



  • 3 oz pomegranate 
  • 1 oz blackberry shrub (see recipe)
  • Mint


Prepare the shrub in advance. Once ready, fill a rocks glass with ice and add the shrub and juice. Gently stir as needed. Garnish with fresh mint.  

Blackberry Shrub


  • 6 oz ripe blackberries
  • ½ c agave 
  • ¼ c white vinegar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime 


Mash the berries (a fork will work) and stir in the zest, juice, agave, and vinegar. Seal in  a leak-tight container and shake. Let sit for 5 days in the fridge, agitating once per day. Then strain and discard solids. Keep refrigerated. 

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