If the stars are kind to you this merry eve, there will come a moment when frenzy melts into calm, when the last gift is wrapped and it’s time for a well-earned tipple – when you can put away the Scotch Tape and reach for the Scotch.
Better yet, not Scotch. May I suggest a smoking bishop, a heartwarming bevvy straight out of A Christmas Carol. It comes with the bonus of Dickensian aromatherapy: Simmered wine spiked with port, citrus and spices will render your home cozier than any scented candle from the bookstore.
In the novella’s final passage, a redeemed Scrooge bids long-suffering Bob Cratchit a merry Yuletide: “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.”
Brits of the era loved clerical code-words for wine: “Archbishop” was red Bordeaux, “Pope” was Burgundy and “bishop” was port. The “smoke” signified steam from the simmering brew.
Cedric Dickens, great-grandson of the author, published a recipe for the concoction in his 1980 book Drinking With Dickens. You do not have time for that version – who’s going to track down and roast Seville oranges, then place them in a warmed bowl with red wine for 24 hours? Here’s my ginger-spiked shortcut (hey, I like ginger). You may want to hit the stove early so you can finish wrapping in scented anticipation.
1 bottle red wine, preferably red Bordeaux or Chilean cabernet sauvignon
1 bottle ruby or late-bottled-vintage port
1 orange, quartered
1/4 cup sugar (or add more to taste prior to serving)
6 thin slices fresh ginger root, roughly the size and thickness of a nickel
5 whole cloves
Pour the wine (not the port) into a pot. Squeeze juice from the orange and lemon pieces into the wine, and drop them in along with all the other ingredients. Place on medium heat until the liquid is hot but not boiling. Immediately turn the heat to very low. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer for roughly 90 minutes. Pour in the bottle of port and leave the pot on the burner until the mixture heats up again, about 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve or colander and serve in dainty teacups, the kind that would earn an English granny’s approval.