Can you really offer Advent Lessons & Carols without serving Smoking Bishop at the candlelight reception that follows? I presume it happens but not on my watch. Smoking Bishop has become part of our L&C tradition at St. John's in Hingham -- people look forward to it at least as much as hearing the choir sing Posten's Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.
What exactly is Smoking Bishop? Well, it has nothing to do with your bishop sneaking a cigarette in the parish cemetery before the opening procession. Nor is it to be confused with a flaming bishop — that’s something else entirely. Smoking Bishop is basically a warm version of sangria. It’s a drink so named for its purple color (brought about by red wine and port) and the fact that it’s served warm.
The best-known literary reference comes from the last page of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” After Scrooge has his conversion experience, we read this conversation with his long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit:
“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 earliest known recipe for the drink, which was originally called simply "Bishop," was published in an 1827 book called Oxford Nightcaps. It's not certain, at least to me, whether Dickens used "smoking" as an adjective or as the name of the drink but with the popularity of his 1843 classic, the moniker stuck.
My Advent gift to you is the recipe. I hope you’ll try it out and let me know what you think. Better yet, make some and drop it off at the rectory!
5 unpeeled oranges 1 unpeeled grapefruit 36 cloves 1/4 pound of sugar 2 bottles of red wine 1 bottle of port
Wash the fruit and oven bake until brownish. Turn once. Put fruit into a warmed earthenware bowl with six cloves stuck into each. Add sugar and pour in wine — NOT the port. Cover and leave in a warm place for a day. Squeeze the fruit into the wine and strain. Add the port and heat. Do not boil! Serve “smoking” warm. Yield: 15 to 20 servings (serve in small wine glasses).