Smoking Bishop and a Cat named Jeoffry

A reader alerted me to this wonderful bit of lore on the blog Spitalfields Life.   Enjoy this with a glass of negus, which it’s something Preserved Killick will know about.

Nowadays, we may celebrate Christmas with a glass or four of mulled wine. But our Victorian and Georgian forebears had a vast panoply of punches, cups, caudles, noyeaux, neguses, shrubs, flips and possets at their disposal to mark the season. This included a range of  ”clerical” punches, spiced and served piping-hot with the addition of roasted (and clove-studded) lemons and seville oranges. If the drink was burgundy based it was termed a “pope,” if claret-based it was deemed an “archbishop” and if port was the main constituent the punch was called a “bishop,” and so on.

At the very end of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge tells Bob Cratchett  “… we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!” Now you know what that is.

This particular smoking bishop is Monsignor Cathal Septimus O’Herlihy, Bishop of Ballygramore, enjoying a glass of this edifying brew after a hard day. Note his mitre, crozier, cincture and zucchetto!

Paul Bommer did the illustration, and you can see a larger version at his place.  There shall the searching reader also find sundry entries about a cat name Jeoffry.

I happen to have a recipie for negus, in case you have forgotten how to make it.  This is from my always useful cookbook for Patrick O’Brien’s series entitled Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels.

1 pint medium-dry sherry or port
2 tablespoons sugar
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
1 pint boiling water
whole mutmeg

Put the sherry, sugar, lemon juice and zest into a jug.  Add the boiling water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour into glasses or tankards and grate a little fresh nutmeg into each.

Serves 4

I am driven to wonder, however….

Is Smoking Bishop to English hot drinks what Stinking Bishop is to English cheeses?

I have new motivation to walk the lanes of Spitalfields the next time I cross the pond, which could be after the 1st of the year.  And if Mr. Bommer is inclined, he can count on a pint.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. AnAmericanMother says:

    The Britten setting of Christopher Smart’s adorable poem about his adorable cat is lovely:

    For I will consider my cat Jeoffry

    Even Sam Johnson liked Mr. Smart. And cats.

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    I can’t speak for the group as a whole (let alone our leader) Father but I’m sure that Juventutum London wouldn’t object to sampling some smoking bishop with you after our Monthly Mass

  3. James Joseph says:

    Looks like a nice drink.

    Caution on the nutmeg when mixed with beverage alcohol. The mixture can kill human beings.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    Re nutmeg and alcohol:

    Do you suppose that’s what killed off all those Regency bucks and Victorian men-about-town?

  5. Kaneohe says:

    James Joseph: please provide us with your sources re: “The mixture [nutmeg/alcohol] can kill human beings”. Please also give exact nutmeg per alcohol dose information, along with certified medical journal articles. A far as I am concerned this is nothing but another attempt to “Bah, humbug! ” the holidays. Without factual proof your claim is nothing more than a cracked punch bowl of unnaturally thick, pasty, gummy, factory fabricated, recycled plastic based grocery-store eggnog conspiracy theory that leaves out all the good stuff – real eggs, real cream, real alcohol, and yes, real nutmeg. THAT garbage WILL kill you! :))

    Give me the proof!! I prefer 80 to 85% brandy – or rum if need be – with a liberal dusting of the killer nut. Live until you die.

    Maybe you prefer Kool-Aid?

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    Kaneohe ,
    Guess I was too subtle, eh?
    In addition to eggnog, almost any sweet dessert that includes a dollop of “the Craytur” also requires nutmeg. Not only the Regency bucks and Dickens’s revellers (who would all be dead anyway by now even if nutmeg didn’t do it) but everybody who orders Bananas Foster at Brennan’s would be in extremis.

  7. James Joseph says:


    A teaspoon or so is all one needs. Alcohol accelerates it. I speak from personal experience. I am brewer, and paranoid cardiac events are NOT fun.

    Nutmeg is great. I have a keep jar og whole unground nutmeg as part of my standard culinary stock.

    If you do a quick Google search you’ll find the medical journals with ease.

  8. AnAmericanMother says:

    OK, I went and took a quick cruise through the medical journals.
    Looks like the reported sufferers were consuming very large amounts (like several ounces) trying to get high, not putting it on eggnog.
    The single adult fatality combined it with roofies, which if not actually asking for it is abysmally stupid. (I thought this nonsense went out with the seventies!)
    Both the dopers and the doctors seem to think that alcohol has no effect on the experience one way or the other.
    So long as you confine yourself to the usual application of nutmeg as a seasoning, it’s not going to be a problem.

  9. RichR says:

    How exactly does one pronounce Killick’s first name? He’s British, mind you.

  10. Mariana says:

    I don’t know how germaine to the issue this is, but I am remined of a lovely book I have, The Cooking of Germany, written in, I think the 60’s by a then elderly, very cultured lady. She speaks of her father’s bishop-like concoction, called Warschauer Tod, Warsawian Death. Apparently you lay crossed swords across the punch bowl, put a suger cone dipped in alcohol on them, light the sugar cone, and dance about the bowl as the sugar drops into it!

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