Chapter 12 of Mason & Dixon finds our beloved astronomers, along with the probably less beloved Maskelyne, on St Helena, a British island territory in the South Atlantic Ocean. They’re drinking at a “punch house” called the Moon, which I can only imagine they selected based on their attraction to heavenly bodies.
The Moon appears to be a real place. Pynchon’s narrator places it on “Cock Hill,” which according to the ever-reliable sthelenaisland.info, was later renamed Napoleon Street. Just last year, the St Helena National Trust shared on their facebook page images of a Napoleon Street house built “in the 1760s” known as the Moon and once operating as a punch house! Mason and Dixon visit Maskelyne there in October of 1761; the place must have been brand new.
Freshly opened as it may have been, Jeremiah and Charles find the place already rich in exotic tradition. You may remember, in fact, that we’ve been here once before. The Moon is the home of the Cock Ale!
“Ahhrrhh!” Mason brings his Head to the Table-top in a controll’d thump, as Mr. Blackner immediately appears with three gigantic Pots of today’s Cock Ale. “Rum Suck, Gents, and if Mr. Mas-son, can resist it, why then you Gents may divide this third Pot betwixt ye. Compliments of the House.” Mr Blackner’s Receipt for Cock Ale is esteem’d up and down the India Route, and when these Malays stop in Town with their travelling Cock-Fights, the Main Ingredient being suddenly plentiful, Cock Ale, as some might say, is in Season.Mason & Dixon, p. 120.
Cock Ale was knocked off the list back in 2015, being of course such low hanging-fruit. But there are some recipe details that merit our further attention:
Mr. Blackner prefers to soak the necessary dried Fruit Bits in Mountain, or Málaga Wine, instead of Canary, and to squeeze the Carcass dry with a cunning Chinese Duck-Press, won at Euchre from a fugitive aristocrat of that Land, in which Force may be multiplied to unprecedented Values extracting mystick Humors not obtain’d in other Receipts.Mason & Dixon, p. 120.
I’m a vegetarian these days, so I’m off the cock ales. I’ll just have to drink this Málaga. It’s the Telmo Rodriguez 2013 MR Mountain, a dessert wine made from partially dried Muscat grapes grown on steep Andalusian slopes.
The nose is pretty oxidative and sherry-like, perhaps a bit past its prime. The flavour is pretty delightful though. It’s sweet and moreish, tasting of peaches and pears, prunes and raisins, plus something a bit floral. It would certainly work very nicely for soaking some dried Fruit Bits, and I imagine would complement a cock ale’s other mystick Humors splendidly.