The Hot Toddy is the perfect cocktail for this moment.
Now, I know that many of you have read that last sentence and inwardly laughed at the idea of me referring to the present tense. “This moment?”, you say. “Are you sure you think about that moment and don’t confuse it with a boxcar moment, or a Grover Cleveland moment or a time when the settlers wore buckles on their damn hats?”
Nope. This moment. Yes, it is true that the Hot Toddy predates America. Yes, it’s true that your great-great-grandmother probably gave one to your great-grandmother to soothe her when she got mumps. But as we enter the last month of this miserable year, when the sun goes down in the early afternoon and it’s so cold that you wear slippers in bed, who has come back to save us? That’s right, the Hot Toddy.
As anyone with young children can tell you, alcohol can be inherently medicinal. This is particularly true and particularly broad, of Hot Toddy, a drink that is recommended almost exclusively for its palliative effects. There are hundreds of recipe sites, for example, that have some fun (and not yet formally refuted) claim that Hot Toddy’s are healthy and can help cure a cold. Many others call it the perfect nightcap: Mark Twain, according to David Wondrich To drink, took one for years before bed, calling it “the only sleeping pill worth considering.”
Most of the time, however, it’s rolled out when the blankets and coats aren’t quite doing it, the cocktail like internal medicine, to be taken as needed when the cold hits your bones. It’s the closest thing to an inner embrace that is available to us without some sort of religious experience and right now, our moment, when the holidays are largely / completely canceled and the only sure way to see someone. one is doing it outside in December, the Hot Toddy dusted himself off to remind us why we as a civilization loved him in the first place.
A Hot Toddy is like whiskey chicken soup, the perfect drink to take away any physical or emotional thrill. It is particularly suitable for a conversation with a friend or neighbor on a porch and can in any case feel like a precious comfort, when you prefer your comfort which is both liquid and silent. And, almost as an added bonus (a fact that is often overlooked in Hot Toddy articles): When cooked properly, it’s absolutely delicious.
- 2 oz. whiskey
- 0.75 ounce lemon juice
- 0.75 ounce honey / ginger
- 4-6 ounces. boiling water
Boil water. Pour boiling water into a mug to preheat it. After a minute, empty the water, add the ingredients (see below), cover with boiling water and garnish with a lemon or orange slice sprinkled with cloves and / or a cinnamon stick.
Notes on ingredients
Whiskey: Personally, I prefer Scottish or Irish whiskey here, but American whiskey works too. Like Japanese whiskey, if you are made of money. If I could pick one brand it would be Redbreast 12 Year Old Irish Whiskey. It’s potstilled, which means it’s fuller and richer. One of the main dangers of Hot Toddy is being too thin and a single malt scotch or Irish whiskey in a jar helps to compensate for that.
Lemon juice: Fresh juice. In fact, the original Toddy had no lemon juice at all and was essentially a Hot Old Fashioned: whiskey, sugar, and hot water. It’s fine but can be a bit dull unless you choose a whiskey with a serious character (like a smoked scotch), so making it a hot sour whiskey with lemon juice adds a welcome tension and complexity.
Honey / Ginger: Honey is a great way to add body to this drink. You don’t need to add ginger, but I find it adds a delicious spice. For my ginger and honey syrup, I bring 2 cups of honey, 1 cup of water, and about 4-6 oz. piece of ginger (chopped) to simmer in a saucepan for 5 minutes, before filtering out the solids.
Hot water: You want to do everything in your power to serve this as hot as possible. The only way this drink goes wrong is if it’s a lukewarm toddy, so it’s important to preheat your glass, just like using boiling water. Also, it would be worth it to preheat your ingredients: if you have 3.5 oz. of ingredients at room temperature and 4 to 6 oz. of boiling water it will be lukewarm on average, which is not good.
The solution: Fill a large shaker or bowl halfway with boiling water, then place a small shaker or metal bowl inside, creating a kind of double boiler. Add lemon juice, honey / ginger, and whiskey to the smaller container and stir to gently heat it for about a minute or two, before pouring it into your preheated mug and covering it with boiling water.
Also, a PSA: Don’t heat it on the stove. Direct flame under pure spirits is an extremely bad idea.
Each week, bartender Jason O’Bryan prepares his favorite drinks for you. Discover his old cocktail recipes.