Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Hot Beverages of Sherlock Holmes

Catching up on the Final Podblem podcast episodes this morning, I came to their discussion of one of my favorite Canonical moments. We all have our favorite moments of Sherlock being Sherlock, or Watson being Watson, but there are also those other little bits that touch us in ways beyond mere literature, like this one, from "Priory School":

"Now, Watson, there is cocoa ready in the next room. I must beg you to hurry, for we have a great day before us."

Well, of course, it's a great day! It's beginning with cocoa!

And not just some hot-water-and-powder instant mix. This was Victorian England cocoa, made by someone who actually cooked! It's fascinating to me that of the five Sherlockian cookbooks I own, the only one with a cocoa recipe is The Camden House Cookbook 2, which is called "Martha's Spiced Hot Chocolate" and is modern enough to call for Cool Whip as a topping.

Victoriana has some 1886 recipes that fill the bill melting an ounce or two of chocolate in water and then stirring that into milk, which follows my own pattern of making a sauce out of water, cocoa, sugar, and a touch of cinnamon in the morning, then stirring in milk, with perhaps a touch of vanilla at the last.

When you don't get into coffee or hot tea, as I don't, finding the right hot beverage can be tricky, and luckily the Canon of Holmes has more than one. In addition to that Priory School cocoa, we find Holmes's words in "Golden Pince-Nez," which our story discussion group hit tonight:

"Here's a cigar, and the doctor has a prescription containing hot water and a lemon which is good medicine on a night like this."

Now, Holmes wasn't saying that hot water and lemon were all that bartender Watson was serving with cigars on that stormy November night. Before Nyquil came the hot toddy, that mixture of hot water, lemon, honey, and whiskey or rum -- and we know whiskey was readily available in the Baker Street rooms. I'm more of a rum fancier myself, so I'll probably go that direction as the nights turn cold this year.

We don't get any references to mulled cider in the Canon, which is a true shame. Coffee and tea are plentiful, and when a special guest was at breakfast, as in "Naval Treary," Mrs. Hudson would actually bring both to the table. Put them all together and you get the four Hot Beverages of the Sherlockalypse: Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, and Hot Toddy.

In other words, something for everyone! Something to keep in mind as the nights grow colder.

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