December 2: The Real Sherlock Holmes

Dr._Joseph_Bell_(1837_-_1911)Sherlock Holmes was supposed to be the world’s greatest (fictional) detective; but who was the real Sherlock Holmes? The answer is elementary, it’s Doctor Joseph Bell who was born on December 2, 1837.

Bell was a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s medical school, and in his lectures, Bell would stress the importance of close observation when making a diagnosis. To prove this point, he would often pick a stranger out from the crowd and identify both his job and recent personal activities.

In 1877, a young man by the name of Arthur Conan Doyle began working for Bell as a clerk, and got to watch the doctor use his observational skills many times. Obviously, Doyle must have been fascinated by Bell’s keen sense of observation, because in 1886 he’d write the first of many stories featuring Holmes, A Study In Scarlet, in which the great detective is introduced by determining with just a moment’s glance that Doctor John Watson has just returned from Afghanistan.

Eventually, life would imitate art and at the height of Holmes’ popularity, Bell was asked on multiple occasions by Scottish police to consult on cases. His record as a consultant was never as good as that of his fictional counterpart, but from time to time he did crack the case.

On the anniversary of the birth of the man who inspired Sherlock Holmes, why not sip on a cocktail called Sherlock Holmes. It’s a clever mixture of  Scotch (to honor Bell and Doyle’s Scottish heritage) and Lapsang souchong (Holmes’ favorite tea). It’s supposed to be served with chilled tea, but I’m sure you can make it hot if you want a warm drink on a cold winter’s night.

Sherlock Holmes

  • 1 1/2 ounce Scotch
  • 2 ounces chilled (or hot if you so desire) brewed Lapsang souchong tea
  • 1 ounce honey syrup
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice

Stir all ingredients with ice (without ice if you’re making it hot), and strain into a champagne coup or a tea cup.

Tomorrow: A politician that inspired a cocktail.


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