It’s finally hot toddy season! The classic hot toddy is made with hot water, honey, lemon and a good measure of whisky. Although by no means do you have to limit yourself to whisky. Try rum, brandy or even gin.
Let’s look into the history of hot toddy and how our favourite winter warmer came about.
The History of Hot Toddy
Alcohol has forever been used for medicinal purposes. When we feel like we are coming down with a cold, one of the first things we treat ourselves to is a hot toddy (or at least that’s what I do). Consider a hot toddy as the alcoholic version of chicken soup. It warms you up, soothes your throat and makes you feel relaxed, relieving aches and pains.
Hot toddy originates from the Hindi word taddy, which in 1610s British-occupied India was a drink made with fermented palm sap. By around the mid-18th century taddy had evolved into a ‘beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar and spices’.
But like with all cocktails, there are many stories around the name and the origin of the recipe. It makes sense that the taddy would have made its way to Scotland, considering the cold and damp weather there. Back then, most of the scotch would have been peated and the smoky whisky was made more palatable by the addition of a sweetener.
As Dr Nicholas Morgan put it when talking about his book A Long Stride: The History of the World’s No.1 Scotch Whisky, ‘From the mid-to-later 19th century, you have what I would call “toddy whisky”, because for respectable drinkers that was how you would drink it, with hot water and sugar and lemon – if you were lucky: you could never get lemons in Glasgow, people would complain, but that was how it should have been drunk. These were really heavy whiskies – there’s a great description of them in the book – oily and heavy and peaty.’
There are two versions of the story of how taddy evolved into a hot toddy. One takes place in Edinburgh, where the pubs would serve scotch whisky with hot water to keep their clientele warm. Allegedly in the 18th century, the water came from Tod’s well, the largest well in the area, lending its name to the drink.
Another story involves an Irish doctor, Robert Bentley Todd, who prescribed his patients a recipe of hot brandy, water, cinnamon and sugar. It is said that he first became familiar with a similar recipe in India from which he then adapted his own mixture.
The hot toddy made it to America in the 1880s, and as it was first known as hot scotch, I’d put my money on the Scottish version of the tale…
All these recipes serve one and are mixed directly in a mug, but you can easily make a larger batch by using a pot to heat it. Just avoid boiling it once the alcohol is in.
Spiced Hot Toddy
15ml Lemon juice
15ml Spiced honey syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters
Simply mix hot water with honey syrup, bitters and lemon juice before adding Aqua Vitae. Give it a stir and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Tip: You could make the syrup with any wintery spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cardamom…
Learn how to sweeten your cocktails. The Essential Guide to Cocktail Sweeteners
40ml Calvados (I used Berneroy Fine)
20ml Fresh orange juice
10ml Fresh lemon juice
15ml Spiced honey syrup, adjust to taste
3 drops of Angostura Bitters, optional
Simply mix hot water with honey syrup and juices before adding Calvados. Add bitters if using. Give it a stir and garnish with winter spices or a citrus slice.
Hot Cherry Toddy
25ml Whisky (I used Arran Amarone)
15ml Maraschino liqueur
Honey, adjust to taste (the liqueur will already bring sweetness so add this last)
Add hot water into a mug. Measure in whisky, liqueur and a squeeze of lemon. Add honey if using. Stir well and serve immediately.
Tip: You can use this same template but change the cherry to orange or ginger liqueur. If you change the liqueur, note that you may need to choose a different whisky to match the flavour profile. For the recipe with Maraschino, I recommend using a whisky with wine or sherry influence.
See this blog post for more Hot Toddy Recipes.
Rum & Cider Toddy
20ml Fresh orange juice
15ml Cinnamon syrup
Somerset Oak Matured Vintage Apple Cider
2 Cardamom pods
1 Star anise
Heat some cider and the orange juice in a pot with the syrup and the extra spices. Keep on the heat until hot throughout. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Strain into a mug, add a shot of rum and garnish with star anise or cinnamon stick.
Tip: You could make the syrup with the extra spices instead of adding them into the cider. I used oak-matured apple cider for extra flavour, but you can easily use a classic apple cider instead. However, I recommend choosing a dry cider due to the added syrup.
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