It’s been a while… so I’m back with a bit of a weird one. Weird enough even to be called weird in Gravity’s Rainbow, which let’s face it is itself pretty weird. Page 615:
Clive Mossmoon and Sir Marcus Scammony sit in their club, among discarded back copies of British Plastics, drinking the knight’s favorite, Quimporto—a weird pre-war mixture of quinine, beef-tea and port—with a dash of Coca-Cola and a peeled onion.
Deeeelicious. But no one said “Every drink in every Pynchon novel” was an easy gig. I’ve mixed myself up a quimporto, or an approximation of one. Quinine is not something you can just buy straight any more, but it’s the main flavour in tonic water, so I’ve used that. For the beef tea: Bovril. This may or may not be what Mossmoon and Scammony are using. Bovril was developed in the 1870s (for Napolean??), and it certainly is very English—fit for a Knight of the Empire like Scammony. My impression is that Bovril is (and would have been) referred to as beef tea; English readers could let me know if this is right. But beef tea is also something you can make fresh by boiling beef bones, so there’s a chance they’re using that instead. My port was an Australian tawny. The Coca-Cola was Coca-Cola. The peeled onion was one of those creepy bright green ones.
In the his Gravity’s Rainbow Companion, Weisenberger calls the quimporto “seemingly awful.” Weisenberger’s not wrong. It made challenging drinking. The thing was really pretty repulsive, especially on the first few sips. Even just the beef tea on its own was gross. After adding port and tonic water and coke and an onion, well, this concoction made the Disgusting English Candy Drill sound like a piece of cake. I’m still trying to drink it as I write this, and I’m a bit concerned that attempting to describe the taste might push it off the edge of bearability into spew-land.
Here’s a try anyway. It’s quinine bite up the front and sweet from the port and coke, then a swimming muddy beefed grapey strangeness, with more beefiness on the aftertaste. Despite that description, the flavours do come together surprisingly well in some ways—it’s disgusting, but it also tastes somehow coherent. Coherent enough to make me think that Pynchon didn’t just make this drink up, or if he did, that he spent some time testing it out. Couldn’t really tell you what proportions I used though. Slightly more beef tea than port, bit less tonic water, less coke than that. But yeah, nasty.
We should note however, that this stuff is actually Scammony’s favourite. And would you take my word over that of a British knight (if one with some odd proclivities)? Why not pull out your jar of Bovril and make up your own mind…