Beat winter’s chill with this classic libation
January means serious cold in our part of the world. Time to warm up!
And what’s more warming than a Hot Toddy? It combines the firewater of your choice (we prefer rum, but any brown liquor works) with a bit of sugar and boiling water. The result is a smooth sipper that will chase the chill away.
Oh, and if you’re unlucky enough to have a cold? The Hot Toddy will make you feel loads better.
Just what the doctor ordered.
Recipe: The Hot Toddy Cocktail
The Hot Toddy is an old drink, probably dating back to the 1700s. It most likely originated in Scotland and featured smoky Scotch whisky.
Some still like to make it that way. Although rum and bourbon are now the spirits most commonly used for Hot Toddies in the US, cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich recommends using a not-too-expensive single malt Scotch.
Our recipe (which we’ve adapted from Wondrich) takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves one.
- ~2 ounces boiling water, plus extra for warming the mug
- ~1 teaspoon sugar (brown or demerara are wonderful; but regular white sugar and simple syrup work too)
- ~2 ounces dark rum, bourbon, or brandy (or other spirit of choice; see Notes)
- lemon wheel or peel for garnish (optional)
- sprinkling of nutmeg for garnish (optional; traditional, but we rarely bother)
- Bring the water to a boil. Use some of the hot water to rinse out (and thus warm) a heat-proof mug.
- Add about one ounce of the hot water to the mug, along with the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the booze and another ounce or so of hot water. Stir to combine.
- Garnish, if you wish, with a lemon wheel or peel and/or a sprinkling of nutmeg. Enjoy.
- Quantities for this cocktail are flexible. You’ll probably want roughly equal amounts of water and booze (although you may prefer more water). And you can adjust the amount of sweetener to taste.
- We generally use brown sugar in this drink, but white sugar or demerara work well, too. As does simple syrup. You could also use honey or maple syrup. The sweetener you choose will subtly change the character of the drink, so go with your mood.
- Any brown liquor works well in this drink. We like to use dark rum, preferably one from Jamaica (Jamaican rum tends to have a bit of funk to it, and funk is good in a Hot Toddy). But bourbon is quite popular for this drink, as is brandy. Irish whiskey is nice, too. Or Scotch, as discussed above.
- You can even make this drink with gin, or so we’ve been told. We haven’t tried it, though we’ve seen numerous comments in 19th century British novels about mixing gin with hot water and lemon (to make a form of toddy, we presume).
- BTW, we’re guessing the gin they used wasn’t the dry gin that’s common today. Instead, it was probably Holland (Genever) gin, which has a rather malty flavor, like Scotch. For more info on Holland gin, see our post on the Turf Cocktail.
- The Hot Toddy is a pretty simple cocktail – just liquor, water, and sugar. Some drinkers like to add citrus flavor via lemon garnish. Or a spicy note with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Many Hot Toddy recipes incorporate cinnamon and cloves, and sometimes other spices (such as allspice or star anise). Nothing wrong with those, but we prefer a simpler preparation.
- Oh, and speaking of spice, we suppose you could use spiced rum in this drink. In fact, if you have a bottle of the stuff around, this drink might be a good use for it. We’ve never actually tasted commercial spiced rum, however (we don’t really see the point of it; if we want to add extra flavors to rum, we know how to do it). So we’re talking theory here, not experience.
- There are variations on the Hot Toddy that use hot tea instead of water. Or you could use another liquid (for example, see our Hot Spiced Apple Cider with Rum). We’ve also seen “cold” versions of the toddy.
- The word “toddy” may have derived from tadi, which refers to a beverage made in India from fermented palm sap. But drinks history is murky, so who knows?
No Cold Feet Here
“Mmm,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Comfort drinking at its finest.”
“Hot stuff,” I said.
“Speaking of which,” said Mrs K R. “We should put winter on ice and escape to someplace warmer.”
“You mean chill out in the heat?” I said. “Sounds like a plan.”
“Indeed it is,” said Mrs K R. “In fact, we’re planning to leave in less than two weeks. But first, we should have one more of these.”
Twist my warm.
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