Thursday, July 24, 2014 · 7:00 p.m.

Drinking with purpose: The hot toddy

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Hot toddies aren't just for colds. (Photo: Staff)

As many people know, the origin of many distilled spirits lies in use for medicinal purposes. Although no one can write these off as a “cure-all,” the season of sore throats and sneezes is upon us, along with a season full of entertaining. What better way to warm up (if it ever actually gets cold) than with a hot toddy?

I have a love/hate relationship with the hot toddy for one simple reason: Everyone does it differently. The toddy represents a cocktail in its purest form, much like an old-fashioned, being comprised most simply of spirit, sugar and water. From there on out, it’s a matter of preference. The history of the toddy dates back to the British Isles as a form of entertainment in which each guest received a glass that they could fill with spirit (in this case, highland whisky), sugar and hot water from a pitcher placed in the middle of the table. To each his own.

This cocktail fits the bill this time of year and is often suggested to remedy a cold. Although I don’t recommend taking this home elixir in place of (or with) over-the-counter cold medicine, it is bound to knock the edge off of your misery. It can be argued that the spirit (be it bourbon, scotch, rum or cognac) can clean out undesired germs, and honey and lemon are known to aid in the relief of a sore throat. In combination with hot water, it only makes sense that you’ll begin to feel better in no time. If you are going to indulge while feeling ill, remember to hydrate as well. Those who advocate for not drinking while you’re sick often harp on dehydration as the main contender to what keeps you feeling low—and I agree. Although the toddy is a great quick fix for your ailment, make sure you keep you health in perspective for the long run.

So, where do you start when making your toddy at home? I personally love a toddy with rum and on any given winter day. My go-to recipe includes an aged rum, yerba mate, honey, lemon and orange peel—although to be proper, a toddy with citrus peel is referred to as a “skin.“ If you are sick, I would trade in the highly caffeinated mate for a tea. You can find several other variations of the hot toddy here.

If you can find a bar with the proper equipment and a bartender skilled enough to pull it off, try the toddy prepared in the “blue blazer” style. It’s a feat I have yet to accomplish, but hope to in the near future. The blue blazer is another hand-me-down of our bartending father, Jerry Thomas. You prepare this particular drink with two insulated mugs, one filled with high-proof spirits and ingredients of your choosing, the other with boiling water. Set the liquor-filled mug aflame, and pour slowly back and forth between mugs, keeping the flame going throughout. This not only incorporates all the ingredients, but also helps to burn off some extra alcohol. Do not try this at home! You can see a proper explanation of this here, and two guys I frequently mention face off in a blue blazer match here.

Hot toddy

2 oz spirit of choice (bourbon, scotch whisky, rum, cognac)
1 tsp sugar (or honey)
4 oz hot water

Pour all ingredients into a hot beverage mug and stir. If you care to, add nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and lemon. 

Not looking to entertain your guests with pyrotechnics? That’s understandable. The toddy is an easy drink to prepare in batches, as the Scottish taught us earlier. You can go about it the same way, by preparing boiling water and providing an assortment of ingredients for guests to tinker to their own personal preferences. Other recipes in batch format suggest heating the ingredients (sugar, water and citrus if you like) on the stove. If you go this route, I would opt to pour the spirit in once you have heated all other ingredients and removed them from the stovetop. Although unlikely to catch fire, we did agree there wouldn’t be any pyrotechnics!

I’ll leave you with a basic recipe for you to adjust to your taste. Happy drinking!

Laura Kelton is a recent graduate of UTC and currently runs the bar program at Easy Bistro & Bar. Feel free to reach out to her by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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