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Literary Cocktail: A Christmas Carol's Smoking Bishop

“A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

Rumour has it that Dickens was a fan of a boozy punch, so it makes sense that in the conclusion to A Christmas Carol the change in Scrooge's behaviour is partly reflected by his allusion to a bowl of warm punch to be shared with his employee, Bob Cratchit.

But what *is* a Smoking Bishop? It isn't a sparkling party punch and it isn't as sweet as the classic mulled wine. It is a warm drink, served "smoking", that mixes red wine and Port, with a citrus-forward taste.

While the traditional recipe is meant to make large quantities for sharing at family gatherings and holiday parties with friends, the 2020 holiday season has us all spending time in smaller groups. Instead of having a lot of leftovers, I have adapted a few different recipes to create a two-serving amount.

A few notes on this recipe:

  • This recipe does take some planning as the initial mixture needs to sit for at least 12 hours on the kitchen counter (or another warm spot).

  • I didn't have a strainer on hand, so I used my tea steeper and a spoon as a short cut!


  • 2 navel oranges

  • 1 lemon

  • 2.5 TBS brown sugar

  • 1 cup of Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 1 cup of Ruby Port

  • 25-30 cloves

  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

  2. Since the whole fruit will steep in the mixture, vigorously wash and dry the oranges and lemon.

  3. Using a sharp knife, make small punctures into the peel of the fruit and fill evenly with cloves. Then cut fruit in half and place rind side down on a lined baking sheet (this will help with clean up!). Bake fruit in oven for 30 - 40 minutes (you will see the oranges puff up over the rind).

  4. Place hot citrus fruit in a heat-safe bowl and add brown sugar and wine. Cover and let sit, unrefrigerated, for at least 12 hours.

  5. Once mixture has sat, remove oranges and lemon and squeeze juices into the wine-sugar liquid. You can now discard the fruit.

  6. Transfer liquid to stovetop pot, straining out any seeds, cloves, or pulp from the liquid.

  7. Add port and cinnamon sticks to the pot and heat, stirring, until the steam begins to rise--it is "smoking"--but do not bring it to a boil.

  8. With a spoon or tongs remove cinnamon sticks and serve in a festive mug!

Warming and citrus-y, this drink is a delicious tradition in a cup. Cheers and happy holidays!


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