Few cocktails provide better comfort and restoration from the cold as the Hot Toddy.
History of the Hot Toddy
It’s likely the Hot Toddy got its name from tāṛī, a hot spiced palm wine popular in and around India. Some time after the early 1600s, the British likely stole the concept (or were inspired, if you prefer) during their long occupation of the region. In the hands of the Brits, the Hot Toddy underwent a few modifications, keeping the spices but substituting palm wine for whiskey (palm trees being something of a rarity in Great Britain).
As a result, through the 18th and 19th century, the Hot Toddy became popular as a well-appreciated warm up against the chilly British climate. Additionally, the cozy cocktail was (and continues to be) valued as a cold remedy and sleep aid, soothing sore throats and relieving coughs. Though the medicinal value of hot booze is debatable, it probably wasn’t a bad system—either the symptoms were alleviated or they were too drunk to care.
Hot Toddy Tasting Notes
The Hot Toddy is spicy, and aromatic, with floral sweetness intermingling with tart citrus.
½ ounce honey:Fun Fact: if sealed properly, honey never spoils—like, ever.
½ ounce lemon juice: We love fresh citrus! Pro tip: when choosing lemons or limes, heavier fruits with thinner skins that give a little when squeezed will yield more juice
6 ounces hot water: The water should be hot enough to make coffee or tea, but not boiling. It’s a Hot Toddy, not a Scalding Toddy.
½ ounce whiskey: Use your favorite whiskey. Dealer’s choice!
Cinnamon stick: as a garnish
Lemon wheel: as a garnish
Pour ½ ounce honey into a mug. Here we use an Irish Coffee mug, but feel free to use anything suitable for hot drinks.
Pour ½ ounce lemon juice.
Carefully pour 6 ounces hot water.
Stir gently until the honey dissolves.
Pour 1 ½ ounce whiskey.
Garnish with the cinnamon stick and lemon wheel.
Hot Toddy Variations
There are probably as many variations of the Hot Toddy as there are people who drink them. Experimentation is encouraged!
Adjust the ratio of honey, lemon, and whiskey to suit individual taste. For example, more whiskey gives a stronger alcohol punch, while more honey increases the floral sweetness.
Different whiskeys impart different flavors and aromas. For example, bourbon can add oak, caramel, and vanilla flavors, while scotch can bring floral, smoky, or malty notes.
For a relaxing, instead of hot water, try using herbal teas such as lemon, ginger, or chamomile. If looking for more of a pick-me-up, use fragrant black teas like Earl Grey or Assam.
Much of the Hot Toddy’s appeal is its aroma. Try using ginger, cloves, cardamom, orange zest, or even peppercorns as additional or alternative garnishes. Maybe don’t use them all at once though, unless you want a mouthful of potpourri.
Other spirits like rum or brandy bring their own sweet, fruity character (See Substitutions below)
A few dashes of bitters add more spicy notes.
The Hot Toddy recipe isn’t set in stone, making substitutions pretty easy.
Other spirits like rum and brandy are wonderful substitutes for whiskey—especially dark rum or apple brandy.
If squeezing lemons is impractical for your purposes, consider using high-quality mixes from Cocktail Artist.
Honey may be replaced with maple syrup, agave nectar, sugar, or stevia.
When to Serve
Traditionally the Hot Toddy is served whenever folks want pleasant relief from the cold. In other words, if there’s a fire in the fireplace, start thinking about pulling out the Hot Toddy mugs.
Before bed: The soothing combination of whiskey and honey is a perfect way to ease into slumber. Please note we said before bed, not in bed. Drowsily holding a mug of piping hot booze while relaxing in bed may lead to very unrelaxing consequences.
After cold weather activities: After a day of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or just spending time out in the cold, a Hot Toddy can restore warmth to the cheeks as well as the spirit.
Cozy get togethers: Warm, cheerful gatherings deserve warm, cheerful cocktails!
When suffering from colds or the flu: The combination of hot water, spices, honey, and citrus have been known to help alleviate cold symptoms such as sore throat and congestion. Sadly, alcohol tends to dehydrate and is therefore not recommended medicinally. Its ability to lift the spirit however might just make it worth it!
What to Serve with a Hot Toddy
Spiced desserts, such as apple pies, mince pies, or fruitcake.
Flaky pastries, whether sweet or savory.
Traditional holiday dishes.
As always, please enjoy the Hot Toddy responsibly!