How to Make a Hot Toddy

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Believe it or not, we’ve still got quite a bit of winter left. The days are short and the temperatures have dipped. We’ve long since traded our tank tops, shorts, and sandals for our jackets and cozy sweaters. This means it’s the perfect time of year to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the classic cold-weather cocktail the hot toddy. So bundle up and get on the hot toddy bandwagon.

For those unaware, the hot toddy is a warming, hot cocktail that combines hot water, honey, whisk(e)y, and usually some lemon and other herbs or spices. Touted as a cure-all for any wintry malady, this drink has a long history of being used to help with cold and flu symptoms. While its actual medical qualities are up for debate, at the very least the addition of vitamin C and the steam should at least help alleviate some of the winter sniffles.

As simple as it seems, it’s the kind of cocktail that many drinkers have never attempted to make. This might be because they simply forget about it or it appears to be more difficult to craft than it really is. Literally, all you need to make this traditional, hot cocktail is to mix together hot water, your favorite whisk(e)y, a little honey, and a squirt of lemon. That’s it. It couldn’t be easier. It’s like one step more than simply making a cup of tea. And last time we checked, tea won’t give you a nice, warming buzz.

The Standard Hot Toddy Recipe

Like many cocktails, the Hot Toddy’s history is shrouded in mystery. There are various theories (and we’ll get to those later). But it’s believed that the drink’s genesis can be traced back to the 1700s in Scotland. Thereby making Scotch whisky the likely base if you’re looking to make a traditional hot toddy. This doesn’t mean you’ll be looked down on if you used bourbon, rye, Irish whiskey, or literally any style of whiskey. It’s up to you. It’s your palate, not ours. Below, you’ll find a traditional hot toddy recipe. We used Scotch whisky, but if that’s not your jam you can insert your favorite style instead.

Hot Toddy Ingredients:

Add the single malt Scotch, honey, and lemon juice to a mug. Add the hot water and stir it all together. Add a slice of lemon to add to the citrus or keep it as is. Drink it slowly and at least pretend it’s helping your cold (if you even have one).

Hot Toddy Variations

While you can go specifically classic with your hot today (as we listed above), you can always change it up to fit your palate. This is an extremely adaptable cocktail. We already mentioned the fact that you can insert your favorite whiskey, but you can also add sugar, various bitters, other citrus fruits, cinnamon sticks, and other spices.

How to Make a Hot Toddy

On top of that, there’s a cold version aptly called the “cold toddy” that’s pretty much the same as the hot version, but instead of boiling water, it’s served with ice. It’s kind of like a spiced-up highball and might be better in the summer than the depths of winter.

The hot toddy is also very similar to the rum-based drink grog. Sometimes referred to as navy grog, it’s made with high-proof rum, lemon juice, water, and various spices and fruits. While not served hot, it’s the kind of parallel thinking that happened throughout the history of cocktails all over the world

The First Hot Toddy

Earlier, we briefly mentioned the history of the hot toddy. It’s believed by many to have been popularized at some point in the 1700s in Scotland. This means the first spirit used was definitely Scotch whisky. It didn’t stay in Scotland for long as it had reached Ireland (with Irish whiskey as its base) by the mid-1700s. But while it was popular in Scotland and northern England in the 1700s, it might have actually been created in the British colonies in India in the early 1600s.

One of the main reasons this is believed is because the Hindi word “taddy” means a fermented beverage made from palm juice. By the late 1700s, the term was even written down to refer to the ingredients of what we now know as the hot toddy.

Others believe that the name “hot toddy” actually comes from a doctor named Dr. Robert Bentley Todd who lived in Dublin in the 1800s. According to legend, he would prescribe a brandy-based hot toddy as a cure-all for his patients.

Regardless of its origin, when it made its way to the US, American drinkers swapped out the Scotch and Irish whiskey for brandy, rum, rye whiskey, and bourbon.

A Timeless Drink For The Contemporary Age

 Due to its simplicity and (sometimes) boozy nature (and the fact that it’s served hot), it’s not surprising that the hot toddy isn’t as popular to contemporary drinkers. But we think it should be. With the popularity of drinks like the Manhattan and old fashioned, we just can’t wrap our minds around the fact that the hot toddy seems to have been forgotten by some drinkers. 

On a cold day, we can’t think of anything better than a warming cocktail made with whisk(e)y, sweet honey, tart citrus, and hot water. Honestly, what could be better? Sick or not, we’re going to spend this winter drinking hot toddies. When we are sick, we’d much rather drink a hot toddy than pop a handful of Dayquil when battling a winter cold anyway. 

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