The Smoking Archbishop Posted on 17 Feb 16:00 , 0 comments

Southern California generally doesn’t have a climate that demands mulled wine. Yet, it is a treat that occasionally appears around the holidays. Sometimes there are bottles at the Accidental Wine Company that require a little bit of creative thinking.

A few years ago we acquired some surprisingly good Italian Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We sold most of it, but we had recently lost confidence in the wine. The wine wasn’t bad, but we couldn’t guarantee that it would be good.

Enter the Smoking Bishop.

The history of food, wine and spirits is a frequent topic of conversation here. The Victorians are particularly interesting. England was at the height of its power and all sorts of exotic ingredients were available from across the Empire.

There are different types of mulled wine that share a prefix. The name varies depending on their base[1]:

Smoking Bishop – Port
Smoking Archbishop — Claret
Smoking Beadle — Ginger wine and raisins
Smoking Cardinal — Champagne, Rhine wine or Tokay
Smoking Pope —Burgundy

One bottle of Cabernet and one bottle of Merlot is close enough to approximate a Claret (as the English would say) or Bordeaux (as the French would say) or Meritage (rhymes with Heritage, as the Americans would say), especially if it was going to be cooked and mixed with fruit and spices.

And so, based on what was available, a recipe was concocted. 4 oranges were studded with 5 cloves each. They were roasted in an oven with a grapefruit. Since the Victorians were using Seville oranges, which have a nice bitterness, a grapefruit was a nice choice to balance out the sweet oranges.

Once out of the oven, the roasted fruit was squeezed and the juice was set aside. The skins were soft and the burnt orange perfume infused the house with a holiday feel. In a separate pan, one bottle each of Merlot and Cabernet were added, two cups of water, a cup of sugar, a 2” knob of sliced, fresh ginger, 2 cinnamon sticks and a freshly grated quarter of a nutmeg. These were simmered together until the sugar was dissolved. The mixture was strained and the citrus juice was added.

It may have been one of the better mulled wines. Served at a party filled with wine drinkers, it was a lark. Who would have guessed that it went before the first bottle of wine was opened!

TAWC Smoking Archbishop

1 750ml Bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
1 750ml Bottle Merlot
1 cup sugar
2” piece of peeled ginger, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated (about ½ teaspoon)
4 oranges
1 grapefruit
20-30 whole cloves


Divide the cloves and stud the oranges. Roast in a 400º for 45 minutes on a sheet pan. The fruit will darken and the bottoms will get darker still. Remove and let cool. Squeeze the fruit, reserve the juice and discard the peels.

Add the remaining ingredients to a stockpot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow the sugar to dissolve and the flavors to blend. Approximately 20 minutes.

Strain the mixture, reserving the ginger and cinnamon sticks. Add the citrus juice and return the ginger and cinnamon.

We kept it warm over the lowest flame we could manage.

Make it pretty with a garnish, if you like. We had some help in figuring out this project. The internet is an amazing place.

Tori Avey: Drinking with Charles Dickens – The Smoking Bishop

Anne Bramley - Smoking Bishop: A Boozy Christmas Drink Brimming With English History

  1. Andrea Broomfield (2007), Food and Cooking in Victorian England, Greenwood, p. 154