Things I’ll Never Drink, Part I: Rooster Beer

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, I’m not usually the squeamish type. True, it took me a while to warm up to the idea of mixing raw eggs with gin and cream, then serving it in a glass–but if I hadn’t rolled up my sleeves and stiffened my backbone prior to making my first Ramos Gin Fizz, I never would have enjoyed one of the finest drinks in creation.

Still, I have my limits. There are a great many drinks that shall never pass my lips, and while most I’ll refuse due to their obvious and irredeemable lameness, there are some that venture in directions no alcoholic beverage should ever be forced to go. Popov and Robitussin is one such libation; Rooster Beer, aka Cock Ale, is another.

The recipe is worth passing along, if for no other reason than to best convey the phenomenally weird tastes our ancestors possessed. I’m drawing the description from Edward Spencer’s The Flowing Bowl, published in London in 1903 (Kingsley Amis also published a version in his On Drink, from 1972), but Spencer cites as his source “The English Housewyfe, containing the inward and outward Vertues which ought to be in a complete Woman, published by Nicholas Okes at the sign of the golden Unicorne, in 1631.” In addition to recipes for drinks such as White Bastard, Muskadine and Ebulum (“to a hogshead of strong ale take a heap’d bushel of elderberries…), the book contains not one, but two listings for “Cock Ale.” I’ll relay only the most explicit:

Take an old red, or other cock, and boyle him indifferent well; then flea [flay] his skin clean off, and beat him flesh and bones in a stone mortar all to mash[the other recipe also states that, for the cock, "the older the better," and that "you must craw and gut him when you flea him"] , then slice into him half a pound of dates, two nutmegs quartered, two or three blaids of mace, four cloves; and put to all this two quarts of sack that is very good; stop all this up very close that no air may get to it for the space of sixteen hours; then tun eight gallons of strong ale into your barrel so timely as it may have done working at the sixteen hours’ end; and then put thereinto your infusion and stop it close for five days, then bottle it in stone bottles; be sure your corks are very good, and tye them with pack-thread; and about a fortnight or three weeks after you may begin to drink of it; you must also put into your infusion two pound of raisins of the sun stoned.

When it comes to kitchen mixology, I’m stickin’ with falernum.

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