I spent the holidays on the road this year with a whirlwind trip to Florida for my first warm weather Christmas, then in Pennsylvania to see my parents before rushing off to New York City for a balmy rooftop New Year’s Eve. Apparently winter became aware that I was avoiding the cold weather and decided to punish me by bringing the cold on in full force my last couple of days in NYC. Seriously, I think it was the fact that I’d been swimming and drinking margaritas several days earlier that made it completely impossible for me to cope with the 12 degree weather with sub-zero windchill. It got me thinking about cold weather drinks to warm up frozen hands and sooth scratchy throats. And then I realized that January 8th is National Hot Toddy Day! Sweet! Just in time!
When you’re fighting a cold, or even just when you are chilly, nothing beats wrapping yourself in a blanket in front of the tube sipping a hot toddy. Hot toddies have long been used as cold and sore throat remedy because they accomplish two things: the warmth and sweetness makes you feel good and the booze makes you feel even better. And they both will possibly put you to sleep. Sure, downing a bottle of ‘tusson will probably put you to sleep too, but a hot toddy actually tastes good.
When I realized that National Hot Toddy Day was coming up, I did a little research to try to find some interesting recipes. There are many complicated versions involving homemade apple bourbon and herbal-tea infused liquors, but I wanted to focus on a more simple approach. My theory is that if you’re sick and miserable you aren’t going to want to be messing around with soaking apples in bourbon for three days before you make it. So the three hot toddy recipes that I found are relatively simple and likely contain stuff you have around the house already.
Traditional Bourbon Hot Toddy
Most hot toddy recipes are basically four elements: booze, citrus, sweetener and hot water. As I mention above, some people add a variety of other flavors, but those are the basics. And the most common liquor used in hot toddies is bourbon. For my bourbon hot toddy I used Bulliet, a personal favorite. If you want to get really decadent you could use something like Michter’s Rye which would give you a more complex flavor.
Bourbon Hot Toddy Recipe: 2oz bourbon, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, dash of Angostura Bitters (optional) mixed in a mug. Top off with 1/4 cup or so of boiling water. Garnish with a thin lemon slice. If you want to get fancy you can stud the lemon slice with whole cloves.
Gin Hot Toddy
Back when I was living in my first apartment in Pennsylvania, my roommate and I had what we called the “summer of gin.” We had a back porch, we had day jobs that didn’t preclude us from having hangovers every day, and someone introduced us to Bombay Sapphire. Suffice it to say that we drank a lot of gin that summer. So much so that I pretty much stopped drinking gin for a decade or so. Now that cocktail culture has risen in popularity, I’ve been tentatively trying out some gin drinks. I was a little skeptical about a gin hot toddy, but wanted to give it a try. I’ll say this for it: it will probably cures what ails you. It is the most medicinal tasting of the three, but not entirely unpleasant. It wouldn’t be my go-to toddy, but if you’re looking for a change of pace and you love gin, this is it. I will say that there is a certain tactile comfort of holding a warm brandy glass in your hands.
Gin Hot Toddy Recipe: 2oz gin, 2 sugar cubes, 1 big squeeze of lemon juice, hot water, cinnamon stick. Dissolve the sugar cubes in the gin, add the lemon juice and mix together with the cinnamon stick. Add boiling water, again, about a 1/4 cup or so depending on how strong you want your toddy to be.
Tequila Hot Toddy
Tequila? in the winter? Sure, why not. This toddy is very reminiscent of a margarita which makes sense because the toddy contains the same ingredients, except that you exchange the ice for hot water. Despite the fact that the tequila toddy was hot instead of cold, it still made me think of the beach, which was a welcome surprise. A drink that warms you up on a cold day and makes you think of the beach? Perfect cure for the winter blues.
Tequila Hot Toddy Recipe: 2oz anejo tequila, 3/4 ounce Grand Marnier, 1/2 ounce agave nectar, 1 teaspoon lemon, 1 teaspoon clementine orange juice. Mix all of the ingredients together and add hot water. Delicious.
A Few Last Words on the Toddy
The nice thing about a hot toddy is that pretty much anything goes as far as ingredients and proportions. For all of my experimentation with toddies I used roughly 2oz of booze for each. If you prefer a less boozey drink, cut that if half, add a little more citrus and add a little more water. As I mentioned above, you can replace the hot water with tea (Earl Gray seems to be a popular choice). I also used middle/top-shelf booze, but then again I’m not actually sick. I’m betting that in one of those sneezy sore throat days, rail liquor will work just fine. If you’re forced to use some really terrible booze, add some more honey or sugar and that’ll cut any bitterness.
Happy National Hot Toddy Day!