Chris Poh, the editor of AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW and I, the Creative Director of the said on-line journal, produce a weekly, free form radio show called THE BLEECKER STREET CAFE on WDVR FM – 89.7 in central New Jersey. We are on the air Fridays from noon until three E.T. You can catch us on the web at www.wdvrfm.org. Every year on the Friday before Christmas we perform an impromptu, unrehearsed, hugely improvised, and otherwise completely unprepared radio-play of Charles Dickens,’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
Because we at AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW are blessed with a staff that share, for better or worse, a distinctive worldview and similar opinions as to what constitutes thespianic talent, we, of course, engage the profound, theatrical faculties of Kathleen Connally, our photoblogger extraodinaire and David McBride, our intrepid Marketing Director in our yearly ruination of this Dickens’ classic.
In our “improvisation,” which has been an annual event now each year for about eight, The Bleecker Street Players seem to unknowingly rehash identical attempts at comedy year after year, and we forgetfully over-play the same dramatic elements of the good ol’ story every time too. It’s loads of fun though. We likewise repeat much ado about the selfsame curiosities that crop up in the story which are unique to those Dickensonian times in 19th Century London. Among those curiosities is a libation that Scrooge, after his epiphany, proposes as a shared consecration of the new found friendship between himself and his long-suffering employee, Bob Cratchit. The drink is called a “SMOKING BISHOP” and it never fails to prompt questions as to the recipe and lore of this enigmatic elixir.
It seems that in certain regions of England at that time, spirited beverages, especially wines, acquired figurative, popular-culture, nicknames from the world of the ecclesiastical. “Pope” meant burgundy, “Cardinal” was champagne, “Archbishop” represented claret, and “Bishop” was the apellation for port. So “SMOKING BISHOP” indicated a hot and steaming, port-based beverage to be enjoyed in the candle light as a brace against the chill of the London winter and perhaps as an analgesic to soothe the sinus headache effected by the all-pervasive and tormenting coal smoke.
Because we at AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW consider it our mission to serve the pub community with the history, the traditions, the legends, the news, and any practical knowledge as to the world of spirited beverages and their purveyors, we offer this recipe for an authentic, Dickens’ style “Smoking Bishop.”
Procure six bitter oranges such as Sevilles and bake them in a medium oven until they begin to turn golden brown. If you can’t find bitter oranges, use four, regular, juicey oranges (not navel oranges) with one grapefruit, or perhaps two lemons.
Prick each orange with five whole cloves. Put them in a bowl (not a metal pot) with a bottle of decent, but hardly world-class red wine and 1/2 cup of sugar. Cover with a towel or board (no metal lid, nor foil). Leave it out on the counter for a whole day and night. Don’t refrigerate.
The next day, remove the oranges and squeeze the juice back into the wine. Pour everything into a pot (now you can use metal) with a whole bottle of port. Heat, but be careful not to boil or evaporate all of the Christmas spirit. It should be steaming however when it is enjoyed in warmed glass mugs preferably with handles.
Ed Petersen, Creative Director of AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE REVIEW