‘Brenda’s Balcony’ creates online community through quarantine cocktails
What started out as a social media post helped bond a pandemic-shaken community around a photo of a cocktail on a balcony.
Brenda Simpkins, a San Jose transplant, moved to South Lake Tahoe about a year and a half ago.
When the pandemic hit, Simpkins was one of thousands who were quarantined at home.
While stress and uncertainty filled nearly every household in April, Simpkins decided to post a photo of a cocktail that she made to the “I Love Lake Tahoe” Facebook page to bring positivity during heavy times. The cocktail was in the foreground resting on her balcony with a scenic sky and mountains in the background.
Simpkins didn’t expect the response she received from the post.
With tons of reactions and comments, she decided to post another the following day and had even more reactions.
People in the group even began asking what she would be crafting up the next day.
Before the page, Simpkins had never really made cocktails other than her “go-tos” such as a lemon drop or cosmopolitan, but she started researching and tweaking recipes to create her own daily cocktail.
“It was a challenge to come up with something new everyday,” she said.
Simpkins knew she was in it for the long haul when she skipped posting for a day. Group members started calling her out asking where the post was and where she went. Simpkins quickly ran to the kitchen and threw a cocktail together to post.
From then on out, she decided to create her own page called “Cocktails on Brenda’s Balcony” which now has over 2,300 followers.
While the page was a platform for Simpkins to share her daily creation, the page quickly evolved.
“It started becoming a community,” she said. “There are a lot of people who really look forward to the post.”
Simpkins said the page became a community for members to express themselves with uplifting comments and support during these hard times.
Before the pandemic, Simpkins was remotely running her successful personal fitness gym in Saratoga while enjoying her new place in Lake Tahoe with her husband.
Not long after settling in, the pandemic hit and she was forced to close the doors of the gym she had been running for the past 19 years.
A few months later she opened her business at 10% capacity, but it wasn’t enough to cover costs. She decided to permanently shutter the gym in July.
“The book was unfolding simultaneously,” she said. “Everybody was going through it with me.”
She said that the community she built became a support network and understood the exhaustion and disappointment she felt losing her business.
“There is a lot of love you feel when you become part of the group,” she said. “Some of the comments bring me to tears.”
Not only was the group supportive to Simpkins, but to each other. When one of the members mentioned recently losing their mother on the page, the community began to show their support and Simpkins even posted a cocktail in tribute.
“It’s a whole community praying for each other,” she said. “Many of these people I have never met, but now consider dear friends.”
After Simpkins created a survey asking her followers if they would buy a book and over 200 responded “yes” she decided to create one.
“Cocktails on Brenda’s Balcony” was self-published in late October. She said her first 700 went quick and she sent each one through the post office by hand or in person.
“They know me well at the post office,” she laughed.
While some books were given to just neighbors down the street, some were sent to places like Australia and Ireland.
The book is essentially a “journal of libations through shelter-in-place” which includes each drink, a recipe and a few comments from followers.
Throughout the posts Simpkins has plugged local Tahoe Blue Vodka and in response they sponsored her book. Residual proceeds of the book are donated to the Tahoe Fund and Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.
“I really look forward to the day when I can meet these people in person,” she said.
Simpkins plans to continue her (almost) daily posts until April 2021 and is working on another book.
To order a book email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her Facebook page: Brenda’s Balcony creates online community through sharing her quarantine cocktails
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” Maya Angelou once said.