It’s nearly Bonfire Night, the perfect time to get stuck into drinks that are as warming for the inside as they are on the outside and write the name of secret crushes in a trail of light from a sparkler.
For the uninitiated – that’s you, America – Bonfire Night is the night when Brits celebrate the foiling of a dastardly plot to blow up the House of Lords, kill the King and bring Catholicism back to Britain. Boo hiss.
It’s 1605, and our 13 conspirators have spent the summer loading a disused undercroft under the House of Lords with gunpowder and kindling. They’re ready to go, but the plague keeps delaying the start of Parliament, and by late October, resolve is less strong than it had been in August. One of the plotters sends a letter to his brother-in-law warning him to stay away from Westminster – and it’s frankly not subtle. No “My wife is sick, ride to York post haste to attend upon her” stuff, more your basic “avoid London and stay in the country, there will be an explosion the like of which hath never been seen”.
So the brother-in-law shows the letter to King James and the King, quite sensibly, orders a search of the building, whereupon Guy Fawkes is found in the undercroft with a box of matches.
He lies of course, says he’s acting alone, but under torture he gives up the others, and they’re all hung drawn and quartered, their heads being skewered on spike on Tower Bridge as a warning to potential opponents of the King.
Now it happens that the date of the gunpowder plot coincides more or less with the ancient pagan festival Samhain, so it’s no great surprise that one bonfire festival was adopted by another and Guy Fawkes Night became a popular celebration. We make an effigy of a Guy, we build a huge bonfire, we burn the Guy and set off fireworks.
Now I’m explaining this it does sound a little odd.
No matter. Fireworks, bonfires, crisp autumn evenings, woolly gloves, and hot toddies are in my future. And I’m looking forward to all of them.
Hot chocolate with Frangelico (per serving)
Frangelico is a hazelnut liquor that’s been made by monks in Northern Italy for over 300 years. The bottle even looks like a Franciscan Friar’s habit – well, honestly, it could be Darth Vadar’s robe for all I know, but if the monks say it’s a Franciscan Friar’s habit, that’s what it is. It’s the catholic overtones of the drink that make it perfect for Bonfire Night, but it would taste just as good, if not resonate quite so loudly, made with Baileys.½ bar of good quality dark chocolate 1 cup of milk 1 tsp brown sugar or honey 1 cinnamon stick 1 shot of Frangelico
- Heat the milk, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan until nearly boiling then take off the heat
- Break up the chocolate and drop into the pan
- Count to 30, then whisk the melted chocolate into the milk (returning to the heat if necessary)
- Add the Frangelico then drink
Hot toffee Apple Cider (per serving)
Toffee apples were a Bonfire Night staple in my house growing up, though they were always slightly disappointing to eat – the apple was too big for the amount of toffee. But this drink delivers with every mouthful.1 cup of apple juice (or apple cider if you are American – it’s not the same in the UK – the fizzy stuff we drank out of plastic bottles on Fairfield as teenagers is not what we’re looking for here) 1 shot of vanilla vodka 1 tsp brown sugar 1 cinnamon stick
- Heat the apple juice with the sugar and cinnamon until steaming
- Add the vanilla vodka then drink
Obviously, a drink with a Bishop in the title is going to be a go-er for Bonfire Night. I only came across this drink last year a a Christmas party, when a friend used some cooking port to pep up some mulled wine and another guest said it reminded him of his grandmother’s favorite winter tipple. Apparently she was wont to drink one or two on a Sunday evening after evensong, then play the piano and sing rude words to popular hymns. When I made and drank this, that’s exactly what I felt like doing.
This is one of those drinks where it’s easier to make a pan-full than an individual glass, I’d say that ½ a bottle of port would do about 6 glasses. If you want to use ¼ bottle or a whole bottle, keep the clove-studded orange and the cinnamon as they are, but adjust the orange juice. This is also the time to use cheap port. Any port in a storm port, as it were.½ bottle of port ½ cup of orange juice 1 orange studded with 13 cloves (1 for each conspirator) 1 cinnamon stick
- Put the orange into a medium oven for 15 minutes to roast
- Pour the port and the orange juice into a pan
- Heat gently with the clove-studded orange and the cinnamon stick until steaming but not boiling
And to go with the toddies:
Sausages in Bonfire Marinade (serves 6)
I reckon people eat about a handful of mini cocktail sausages each, which is about 4, so I work on that basis and hope for leftovers that I can enjoy into next week. The paprika gives both heat and smoke and makes these sausages taste almost barbecued.24 cocktail sausages 1tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp brown sugar 1 tbsp tomato ketchup 1 tbsp smoked paprika Salt and pepper
- Pre heat the oven to 400 (200 in the UK)
- Tip everything together in a bowl to mix, season well, then spread out the sausages on a baking tray
- Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown