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Christmas cheers

Categories: News and previews

Ahead of her upcoming festive drinks demo, Angela Clutton explains what happens when you put a smoking bishop in a room with some egg-nog

What do you get if you put a bishop in a room with some egg-nog and a mulled ale wassail? The answer is: all the ingredients for a blooming good festive party. Especially if the bishop is smoking.

Don’t get too excited. I’m not talking about that kind of bishop. No clerical revelations here. The kind of smoking bishop I’m talking about is a mulled port drink that’s just perfect for this time of year—and on 16th December I’ll be in the Market Hall giving a demonstration of how to make this and a few other festive tipples, matching them with Market produce to eat alongside, and talking about the traditional roots behind the drinks.

Served hot
The smoking bishop’s traditions lie in the 1800s when it was just one of a set of drinks named after religious roles, each based on a different style of wine. There was the Pope, the cardinal, and the bishop, which was called ‘smoking’ when served hot.

Its port is mulled with spices and roasted oranges (in my recipe it is also served with slices of caramelised orange) and those elements are the inspiration behind another drink I love to have at this time of year: spiced rosemary and orange cordial. Every Christmas I make a couple of bottles to keep in the fridge as a stand-by—perfect for giving a bit of pep to a sparkling wine, or serving as a soft drink with sparkling water or ginger beer. It makes an interesting, festive-feeling option for any non-drinkers—or on any day when you want to take a break from the indulgence.

Common misconceptions
Christmassy drinks don’t get too much more indulgent than a good egg-nog. And by ‘good’ I mean the kind of egg-nog which will dispel the two common misconceptions about it. Firstly, that it is rich or even sickly. I promise you good egg-nog is neither of those. It is light and frothy and deliciously smooth. Like a great boozy custard. Secondly, most people think egg-nog is an American tradition. It isn’t. The short story is that it started life as the English posset, made its way to the US, and then ended up coming back to us as the nog.  For the long story, you’ll have to come to my demo—it’s a pretty interesting tale.

What I will say now is that in the original British drink the alcohol element would have been ale. Happily, all is not lost for ale in my festive line-up as I’ll be doing a wassail served with baked apples and spiced toasts. Families traditionally ‘wassailed’ together at Christmas by sharing sweetened, spiced ale served in a ‘wassail bowl’. My version adds in some cider brandy for an extra layer of flavour but I’m keeping the spiced toasts that would have been served in the wassail bowl as symbols of the toast being made for a future filled with health, happiness and prosperity for all.

Join Angela for tips, tastings and recipes on Friday 16th December in the Market Hall, 12:30-2pm