Cognac first appears in Pynchon crated up on the Swinemünde dock, among the cargo Gerhardt von Göll / Der Springer is shipping upriver. Springer’s cargo also features “six chorus girls, wearing feathers and spangles under old cloth coats to save trunk space, a small pit band at different levels of alcoholic slumber, manymany cases of vodka, a troupe of performing chimpanzees” and various other such essentials. He oversees the loading:
Springer stands by, pince-nez clipped in front of agate eyes, checking off his inventory in a green morocco book, snails in garlic sauce, one gross . . . three cases cognac . . . tennis balls, two dozen . . . one Victrola . . . film, Lucky Pierre Runs Amok, three reels . . . binoculars, sixty . . .Gravity’s Rainbow, p. 497
The cognac fits snugly into Springer’s scene of decadence afloat. Pynchon doesn’t specify what sort of cognac the enigmatic director favours, but it might as well be Hennessy, role model in the brown bottle for such similarly influential individuals as Tupac and Kim Jong-il. My own bottle (which is not actually brown? what is Tupac on about?) has been kicking around here a while, making previous appearances in a (lot of) Brandy Alexander. The bottle met its final end on this occasion, which I am now some weeks separated from, having temporarily misplaced my camera in the meantime. I hope you weren’t here seeking detailed flavour descriptions.
Cognac also appears late in Against the Day, when Dally meets some acquaintance of Kit’s called Policarpe:
She bought him a cognac. They sat and watched the lighted boulevard. Policarpe worked for a Socialist newspaper. Death had not taken up residence in his eyes but had visited often enough.
“We’re in Hell, you know,” he said conversationally.Against the Day, p. 1077
Cheerful fellow. Come to think of it, Tupac and Kim probably were rather death-haunted now and then too. Does cognac warm such chill company? Der Springer’s cases seem only more appropriate if so.