“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 endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)
On hearing these words (or a version of) being uttered by Jim Carrey’s animated form towards the end of A Christmas Carol, I was roused from the kind of semi-catatonic state only brought on by the heady combination of Christmas films and too much Stilton. Although this is obviously not the best rendition of A Christmas Carol, I hope you will forgive me.
To clarify, Patrick Stewart is the best Scrooge…although its hard to argue that both the Disney version, featuring a Victorian-ised Scrooge McDuck (Ducktales…a woo-ooo), and the Muppet’s effort with Michael Caine (Michael Caine! Can anyone else believe that? I’d completely forgotten), are not superb efforts in their own right.
Back to Carrey though. It was upon hearing these words that I remembered watching Rick Stein’s A Cornish Christmas for the umpteenth time, specifically the scene where he is sitting huddled in the corner of a dimly lit pub with a saucy maid and big steaming bowl of Smoking Bishop – the true Dickensian festive drink!
I knew I must have it. And Eggnog too of course, because what’s not to like about bourbon and custard?
I was delighted to find this recipe and also the above quote at the very helpful blog The History Kitchen to which I am eternally grateful for providing the Phillips’ family household with this beverage on Christmas Eve. It (nearly) inspired us to go carolling it was that good. But then we played Trivial Pursuit instead which is always going to be hard to beat.
The key part of this is to leave the baked and clove-studded citrus fruit (above) to soak for 24 hours in the red wine before adding in the port. The waft you get when you unveil it after this mulling feels like Father Christmas himself has punched you square on the nose and asked if you’re man enough. In a jovial, good hearted way.
The port, spices, red wine and fruit completely knock the socks off any mulled wine I’ve ever tried. I would seriously recommend giving this a go. I’d even crack this out now during the grim dark nights to enjoy by the fire (or perhaps a hair dryer under the sheets if you’re as environmentally friendly as Laura.) Bottle up any leftovers in the port bottle and it’ll mature nicely.
Slightly less helpful recipe here as it uses American measurements (it is the HOLIDAY season after all) but just convert it on Google and you’ll be fine.
I would say that, unlike the Smoking Bishop, this drink isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fan of cold custard (and we are habitual family of such), then you’ll be well away. Vamp up the bourbon measurements though to give that much needed bit of bite.