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Our simple hot toddy recipe is an instant winter classic

What exactly is a hot toddy?

Dewar's Hot Toddy
Dewar's

In terms of warming and wintry cocktails, there’s no beating the appeal of the classic hot toddy. If you’ve never had one (and don’t have it as one of your winter go-to’s), this is likely because either the old-timey name turns you off or you simply just don’t know what a hot toddy is.

Why is a hot toddy? Historically used as a cure-all medicinal drink in Ireland, Scotland, and the southern US, this simple hot cocktail is made from whisk(e)y (usually Scotch or Irish whiskey, but any whiskey will do), honey, lemon, and hot water. Some drinkers add spices and herbs to make it more of a spiced whiskey tea, but we believe simplicity is the key when preparing a hot toddy.

History of the hot toddy

Its history, like many classic cocktails, is murky at best. The first recipe for a drink similar to the hot toddy was published in the late 1700s. It consisted of liquor, hot water, spices, and sugar (instead of honey and lemon). The word “toddy” comes from the taddy, a drink made of fermented palm sap that was imbibed in India in the 1600s when the British controlled the country.

As for the medicinal qualities, it’s more than simply people believing this drink was a cure-all for colds and flu symptoms; the drink was even prescribed by doctors in the past. On top of that, Dewar’s (the famous blended Scotch whisky brand) ran advertisements in the 1930s touting the hot toddy as a cure for the common cold. We’ll take a steaming hot toddy over traditional, foul-tasting cough medicine any day.

And while prescribing this drink to cure winter disorders might not be better than contemporary medicine, it does have medicinal value. The steam from the drink is good for opening up your sinuses. The vitamin C from the lemon can help you feel better quicker. If you have spices like ginger, you’ll help with your cough and aid in any inflammation. Honey is an antioxidant that will help soothe a sore throat.

Even if you don’t have a cold, you can still enjoy the warming, sweet, boozy flavor of a well-made hot toddy. In its most basic sense, if you want to know how to make a hot toddy, the drink consists of whiskey, honey, lemon, and hot water. Simple, perfect, but easily adaptable to fit your palate. You can also treat it like a spiced wine or cider and add a cinnamon stick, a lemon wheel, ginger, or other spices.

Ballantine's Hot Toddy
Ballantine's

Hot toddy recipe:

Ingredients:

2 ounces of blended Scotch whisky
3 teaspoons of honey
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice.
Hot water topper

Preparation:

Using a teapot on a pan, heat water until it’s hot. In a mug, add honey, lemon juice, and blended Scotch whisky (or whatever whiskey you prefer). Pour hot water to fill the rest of the mug. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Add more honey or more lemon juice after you taste it if you prefer. Also, add a cinnamon stick, lemon wheel, or if you want. Enjoy the warming, boozy, and potentially medicinal qualities of this classic drink.

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Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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