Down a Mug of 'Smoking Bishop'

Oddly Named Drink from Dickens Classic a Holiday Favorite

Smoking Bishop

hide captionScrooge and Cratchit enjoy a mug of "Smoking Bishop" at the end of A Christmas Carol.

At the very end of the beloved Charles Dickens holiday classic A Christmas Carol, a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge and his long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit share an oddly named libation:

"A Merry Christmas, Bob!" said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!"

The drink, as NPR's Neda Ulaby discovered, is hot, spiced wine similar to wassail — something like a hot sangria, scented with oranges and infused with port.

In his book Drinking with Dickens, Cedric Dickens— the great-grandson of Charles — tells Ulaby that people back in the 1800s enjoyed a whole range of "clerical drinks."

"Pope is burgundy, Cardinal is champagne or rye, Archbishop is claret, Bishop is port, and so on," Dickens says.

Here's Dickens' "Smoking Bishop" recipe:

• Take six Seville oranges and bake them in a moderate oven until pale brown. If you cannot procure any bitter Seville oranges, use four regular oranges and one large grapefruit.

• Prick each of the oranges with five whole cloves, put them into a warmed ceramic or glass vessel with one-quarter pound of sugar and a bottle of red wine, cover the vessel, and leave it in a warm place for 24 hours.

• Take the oranges out of the mixture, cut in half and squeeze the juice, then pour the juice back into the wine.

• Pour the mixture into a saucepan through a sieve, add a bottle of port, heat (without boiling), and serve in warmed glasses.

• Drink the mixture, and keep Christmas well!

(Note: Paul McClowsky of The Dark Horse Inn in Philadelphia recommends bringing the mixture to a boil, then simmering for an hour, adding brandy, brown sugar and orange juice.)

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