Christmas Cocktails from Charles Dickens

“Marley’s Ghost”, original illustration by John Leech from A Christmas Carol.

When it comes to Christmastime cocktails, the go-to tipple is usually eggnog. But for those in the lactose-intolerant boat, or just don’t dig the nog, this sometimes leaves you in a bind. To remedy this, we’re looking for some home bar inspiration in the tomes of literary history, more specifically, Charles Dickens’ classic novella, A Christmas Carol.

   For those who have read this cautionary tale of living like a Scrooge, there are a few references to piping hot libations that just got us thinking—what the heck is a Smoking Bishop anyway? Thankfully, Cedric Dickens (Charles’s great-grandson) was curious too, and with a name like Dickens, the pen is not far from the page. Cedric’s Drinking with Dickens is the perfect barroom compliment for the bookworm drinker, complete with recipes from Dickensian England and America, with the scenes set by Charles Dickens’ vast portfolio of prose. Here, we share two of those sips, straight from A Christmas Carol: Bob Cratchit’s Hot Gin Punch, and Smoking Bishop shared between Scrooge and Bob in the close of the novella. Enjoy!


Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol - Cocktail Recipes from A Christmas Carol -
“The Ghost of Christmas Present” from the original edition, 1843

In A Christmas Carol, in Stave III, shortly after Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, the two spy on the Cratchit family readying a Christmas feast. After having their fill on roast goose and plum pudding, the Cratchits sit near the hearth to sip on a little Christmas cheer.

 “At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth … and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle. These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily.”

So what the heck is this “hot stuff from the jug” the happy Cratchits are drinking? Earlier in the stave, there is mention of merry old Bob compounding “some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons,” so what’s the what? Below is an adapted recipe from Drinking with Dickens, brought to us by Hendrick’s Gin, which brings a pinch of sweetness to this hot gin punch.


Hendrick's Gin - Hot Gin Punch - A Christmas Carol - Christmas Cocktail Recipes from Charles DickensHot Gin Punch

Yields 6 servings

  • 18 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
  • 18 oz. sweet Madeira wine
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • Peel and juice of 1 lemon (or more to taste)
  • Peel and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced


Put all the ingredients in a medium pot over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes; taste and adjust flavor with more brown sugar or more lemon juice. Pour the mixture into a jug or teapot and serve warm. 


A Christmas Carol - Smoking Bishop - Cocktail Recipes from Charles Dickens - Scrooge and Bob Cratchit celebrate Christmas in an illustration from Stave Five of the original edition, 1843.
Scrooge and Bob Cratchit celebrate Christmas in an illustration from Stave Five of the original edition, 1843.


As A Christmas Carol comes to a close, we find Ebenezer Scrooge a changed man, enjoying a cup of Smoking Bishop with Bob Cratchit. Noted as a “clerical drink,” this mulled wine was a popular drink in Victorian England, with quite a few variations making the rounds—Smoking Archbishop used claret, Smoking Beadle was made with ginger wine and raisin, Smoking Cardinal used Champagne, and Smoking Pope was made with burgundy. Here, we offer a version of the Smoking Bishop. Enjoy.


Smoking Bishop

  • 4 unpeeled oranges
  • 1 unpeeled grapefruit
  • Smoking Bishop - Charles Dickens Christmas Cocktail Recipes 25 cloves
  • ¼ pound of sugar
  • 1 bottles of red wine
  • 1 bottle of port


Wash the fruit and oven bake until slightly brown, turning once. Put fruit in a large glass or ceramic bowl, inserting five cloves into each. Add sugar and wine (not port), cover, and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.

Halve fruit and squeeze juice into the wine; strain well into a saucepan. Add port and heat—do not boil. Serve in warm glasses.

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