God Bless the Bishop, Everyone

December is a love-hate month. The weather and time turn against us. The pretense of autumn ends in late November. When we say things like ‘cold winter, eh?’ and some pedantic dildo nearby decides to inform you that ‘winter starts December 21’, you begin to rethink your stance on capital punishment and biblical stonings. For surely these people would be the first to go.

It’s currently 6:12 am on Monday. Outside my window it’s cold, it seems to be rain-snow-winding, and I know that sunlight will be a rumor until much later. And then, it’s a thing I’ll miss if I sneeze too long.

With the weather against us, you’d think it would be time for us to take it easy, hibernate, regroup, reenergize. But you’d think wrong. This is crunch-time for the people we work for – and whose NAME depends on your level of conspiracy theory. And, just for kicks, due to the lack of sun, light, and warmth, you have the energy (and consistency) of a seven-month-old tortilla that you found pressed up against the back wall of your fridge.  

But then there’s Christmas. And whether this holiday causes you a great deal of stress or comfort or (for many of us) both, it’s a thing to be reckoned with. There’s shopping and parties. It all but takes over Netflix and one can’t help but break open a bag of popcorn and watch formerly small town now corporate women go home to a place called Autumn Hill or October Glen or Flannel Bend and realize that, yes, the small town is the place for them after all. And even though the smarmy big city boyfriend will have slick backed hair, a cheap suit, and will have just sold an orphanage of kids to an Air Jordan factory, you’ll feel a little bad, because man, he doesn’t know what’s coming.

In the end, Christmas is a force, both cultural and pragmatic, to be dealt with. And this can be stressful.

So, how to cope? Drinking. Walking. Drinking. Walking somewhere to drink. But as a walk to a place to drink rudely involves walking back with a stagger, I have gone for watching Christmas movies and reading a book about Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens’ timeless Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol is such a part of our Christmas culture that it has been done redone more times than ‘Hallelujah’. It has been done by the Muppets. It has been done by Mickey Mouse. There are now movies and books about Charles Dickens writing the book (the one I am reading now). You rarely see movies about Homer banging on his stone tablet while writing the Odyssey.    

But what I like about the story of A Christmas Carol is how realistic it is for Christmas. Dickens was under a deadline, his wife was pregnant, his latest book installments were getting ho hum reviews. The pressure was on. And Dickens only had a few weeks to deliver. And he did. And we all know what happened. Scrooge. Marley. Three ghosts. Bah to the humbug. Tiny Tim. And good ole Bob Cratchit.

The very fact that Dickens needed a drink after he was done writing this book comes straight out of the last scene. Scrooge, relieved, having avoided ghosts, hell, and probably an eternity of listening to Jacob Marley tell drunken stories, says to Bob:

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!

Yes, we’re happy about Bob and Tiny Tim (who will evidently now live to be Tall Tim). We’re happy about the happy ending and Scrooge’s redemption. But we are really happy about the Smoking Bishop.

A Smoking Bishop is a hot punch drink that belongs among a group of cocktails called the Ecclesiastics. This is a bunch of punch cocktails that are named after members of the clergy. A Smoking Bishop, the Smoking Pope, the Rich Pope, the Smoking Archbishop, the Smoking Beadle, and the Smoking Cardinal. These protestant-borne cocktails provide us not only with a good, solid drink, but a way to make fun of the Catholic Church. In protestant countries such as Sweden, the punchbowl is shaped like a bishop’s miter.

The original recipe was labor-intensive and took over 24 hours to make. Since I know you don’t have that kind of time, we’re using a boiled down recipe that’ll get you seeing ghosts in about 2 hours.


    750 ml ruby port

    750 ml red wine

    1 cup water

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/4 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated

    1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground

    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

    4 oranges

    20 cloves, whole

    All of your sins written out on a sheet

    No ghosts in sight

Garnish: clove-studded orange slice


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Wash and dry oranges. Pierce and stud each orange with five cloves.

    Place oranges in a baking dish and roast until lightly browned all over, 60-90 minutes.

    Add port, wine, water, sugar and spices to a saucepan, and simmer over low heat.

    Slice oranges in half and squeeze juice into the wine and port mixture.

    Serve in a punch bowl, and ladle into individual glasses.

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)