Merry Christmas, everyone! Let’s celebrate the holiday the Victorian way with a bowl of Smoking Bishop: the spicy, fruity beverage drunk by Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Smoking Bishop is a is a spiced wine punch, served hot and flavored with oranges. It is a traditional drink of England and was very popular in the Victorian Era as a winter (and especially Christmas) drink. It is famously mentioned in Charles Dickens’ aforementioned book, when Scrooge is a changed man. He offers Bob Cratchit his help and a fortifying drink of the season: Smoking Bishop.
Honestly though, there are lots of articles about Smoking Bishop in the blog world. You could go anywhere to get those recipes. So I decided I should come up with a twist on the classic Christmas beverage: Smoking Becket! It is inspired by the famous English saint, Thomas Becket, the 12th Century Archbishop of Canterbury who defied King Henry II. His feast day for Catholics and Anglicans and the day of his death is on December 29th , so perhaps, save a glass for a toast next Thursday!
This drink is made with spices, bold like Becket himself. And because the saint met a martyr’s death, the punch is uniquely flavored with Blood Oranges rather than the traditional Valencia or Seville varieties. Smoking Becket is served hot and is perfect for winter-time. It is a strong, flavorful and rich beverage that warms the drinker to the toes with robust and exotic flavors of citrus and spices.
Smoking Becket (Spiced Blood Orange Punch)
Six small blood oranges
About 36 Whole Dried Cloves
2 ½ cups (600 ml) of Water
1 ½ cup (350 ml) of Port
1 ½ (350 ml) Fruit Wine (I used Manischewitz Blackberry Wine)
1 tsp (5 ml) fresh grated ginger (or ginger paste)
1 tsp (5 ml) allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp (5 ml) Anise Extract (optional)
1 cup (225 ml) unbleached cane sugar
1 ½ (350 ml) more cups of Port (Three cups in whole recipe)
4-6 cups (950-1400 ml) medium bodied red wine (I used Merlot)
1.) Preheat oven to 325°F (About 165°C)
2.) Stud the blood oranges and lemon with cloves, five or six in each. To do this, make a small incision in the peel with a knife and stick the clove in, making a criss-cross incision if the peel is very thick. Place the studded fruits in a baking dish and roast in the oven for one hour.
3.) While the oranges are baking, heat the water, the fruit wine and half the port to boiling. Add ginger (or ginger paste), cinnamon sticks and allspice. (You can add dashes of ginger powder and ground cinnamon if you like it spicier). Also add the Anise extract, if desired. Stir in the sugar and simmer, allowing it to steep, whisking occasionally. It should be a little bit thicker, reddish brown and very fragrant.
4.) Take the oranges and lemon out of the oven. Half them and squeeze the juices into a cup (careful, they will be hot!) and then add the juice to the spice syrup. Make sure to remove the seeds.
5.) Add the remaining port and the wine to taste. Start with four cups of red wine, but if the flavor is still too strong, you can add more wine or even water. Whisk the punch thoroughly and heat it until it is at a nice warm temperature for drinking. Preferably smoking hot!
You can garnish each glass of Smoking Becket with a slice of Blood Orange and a cinnamon stick, if desired. This recipe makes almost a gallon, enough for a nice hefty punch bowl and maybe a little extra to help you recover after cooking for the Christmas party!
This recipe is very flexible. If you want to use a favorite fruit wine, a special port, a different red, more orange, or less spice, you can! It’s really a made to order drink.
If you like my recipe and want to share it, please do! But do make sure to tell everyone where you got it from and link back to my post.
(To learn more about Thomas Becket, you can visit this link: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Thomas-Becket. You could also read T.S. Elliot’s fantastic play Murder in the Cathedral, or watch the two great actors Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole in the 1964 film Becket. While highly dramatized and not entirely true to the real story, the film is marvelous.)