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Easy Hot Toddy Warms All Your Toes

5 from 6 votes

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Easy Hot Toddy with lemon peel and clove garnish
Easy Hot Toddy

If you’re feeling under the weather, or just need a warm comforting tipple, this easy hot toddy is your cold cure for what ails you. Growing up near Louisville, Kentucky, I learned early on the powerful healing benefits of a hot toddy. That little bit of citrus, the soothing taste of the honey, and the warm aroma of the whiskey make me feel better when I have a cold just by thinking about it.

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What is a Hot Toddy?

At its most basic, a Hot Toddy is a built drink of hot water, a squeeze of citrus, spirit, and a healthy dollop of honey or sugar to sweeten it. The best toddies are piping hot and served in a hot mug you can wrap your fingers around on a cold evening.

History of the Hot Toddy

Warmed medicinal beverages are common in every culture, and for the toddy, there are competing theories of its origin. As you might imagine from the name, both have British origins. 

In one version, British colonialists appropriated the drink from Indian culture around the 1600s via the “taddy” – a cold drink made from fermented palm sap. A few sources said that in the Indian climate the pine sap would begin to ferment from wild yeast within just a few hours. By the late 1700s, the toddy had been recorded as a drink made with spirits, hot water, spices, and sugar, and was known throughout the British empire, including in the Americas.

In the second origin story, the Hot Toddy came from an Irish doctor, Robert Bentley Todd, who prescribed a hot drink of brandy, sugar water and cinnamon for fevers and illness. I want him as my doctor. Really. 

By 1837, the toddy was prescribed as a common cold remedy to heal fevers, aches, pains, and nasal congestion, “If your child begins to snuffle occasionally, to have red eyes or a little deafness; if his skin feels dry and hot, and his breath is feverish — you have now an opportunity of doing your work much faster than ever before…[p]ly him well with hot stimulating drinks, of which hot toddy is the best.”

Yes, my parents did hand me a fast and easy hot toddy when I was fighting off a cold and couldn’t sleep as a child. It’s not much more alcohol than in a dose of Nyquil. Plus, they were from Kentucky, so the hot toddy was a cold cure to them.

Back to the history. According to David Wondrich, in the 1870s, the increased quality of the whiskey available in the states meant the high point of demand for the Hot Toddy – sometimes called a Hot Scotch.

Jerry Thomas and his contemporaries didn’t stray much into using honey, preferring sugar as the sweetener in their toddies. Today, we usually see honey or sometimes demerara sugar used. But the hot toddy was a popular whiskey cocktail, and all the rage at the time. 

Flavors in a Toddy

Easy Hot Toddy in a glass much with a lemon zest impaled with whole clove
Easy Hot Toddy

To me, the beauty of a fast hot toddy lies in its flexibility. Various spirits can be used. Different hot liquids can be used as a base for the warm element. You can swap out your sweetener from honey to maple syrup to simple syrup. And you can add spices and herbs to your heart’s content. 

The classic version from Jerry Thomas’ The Bartender’s Guide in 1862 included only whiskey, hot water, and sugar. It was basically a hot sling.  But today, the modern classic has a bit of sweetness, a little sour, some whiskey, and plenty of hot liquid. 

In today’s version, we find health benefits to the individual ingredients. Warm liquids ease congestion, honey soothes sore throats, and lemon juice bolsters Vitamin C levels. In the South we often consider the hot toddy a cold cure. There’s been no scientific study that I know of that sets the overall healing benefit of the toddy, but in their individual roles, elements of the modern hot toddy recipe each have health benefits. 

Since it’s been used as far back as the 1700s as a medicinal cure, I’m willing to give tradition the benefit of the doubt. Hand me my toddy.

How to Make this Easy Hot Toddy

MAKE SURE YOU WARM YOUR MUG! That’s the key tip here. A lukewarm hot toddy is worse than a cold toddy (which is also a category of the toddy). Heat your mug, either by filling it with boiling water before you add your toddy ingredients or by heating water in it in the microwave.

Use a normal-sized mug – 8-10 ounces. We all drink out of huge mugs these days, but a toddy will water down far too much in a large capacity mug and you want your cocktail to get close to the rim of the mug. A cocktail that only takes up ½ the capacity of a vessel just looks funny.

After your mug is heated, add the hot water, the lemon juice, spices, and honey and stir to combine. Finally, add the whiskey and stir one final time. When I’m at home I often heat the mug in the microwave one last time to make sure it’s hot before I sip it.

How to Make A Two Minute Hot Toddy

For a two minute hot toddy: 

  1. Heat 4-6 ounces of water in your mug in the microwave for one minute.
  2. Add in the whiskey, spices, citrus, and honey. 
  3. Stir. 
  4. Heat again for 20-30 seconds. 
  5. Sip.

Tips and Tricks to Make the Best Hot Toddy Ever

Easy Hot Toddy in a glass much with a lemon zest impaled with whole clove
Easy Hot Toddy

Play with the elements of the toddy to make it yours. It’s like the ultimate choose your own adventure drink. Choose flavors that appeal to you and complement one another. One of my favorite toddies uses honey, lemon, hot apple cider, cinnamon and clove. Another favorite uses chai-spiced tea as the hot base and rum as the spirit. 

Here are some suggestions to get you started:  

Spirit

  • Whiskey
  • Aged rum
  • Aged brandy
  • Reposado or Anejo tequila
  • Dealer’s choice

Hot Base

  • Cider
  • Hot tea
  • Hot brewed beverage

Sour element

  • Lemon juice
  • Lime juice
  • Cider vinegar
  • Drinking/cocktail shrub

Sweet element

  • Honey
  • Demerara sugar or brown sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Sweet liqueur
  • Flavored or spice-infused simple syrups

Spices

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Star anise
  • Ginger
  • Cayenne
  • Cardamom
  • Clove
  • Citrus peel

Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy

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Easy Hot Toddy in a glass much with a lemon zest impaled with whole clove

Two Minute Easy Hot Toddy

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Make up an easy hot toddy with this fast toddy template. Choose your spirit, a complementing hot beverage, a sour element, and a sweetener and you’ll be able to soothe your sore throat and sniffles any time you need.
5 from 6 votes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 ounces whiskey 80-95 proof or other selected aged spirit
  • ½ oz lemon juice or preferred sour element
  • ½ oz honey, or to taste or preferred sweetener like maple
  • 4-6 ounces of very hot water or preferred hot beverage like hot tea, cider, fruit juice
  • Garnish: cinnamon stick, lemon wheel, loose cloves as needed

Instructions
 

  • Fill your serving mug with very hot water while you gather your ingredients. Empty the warmed mug, add hot water, honey, lemon juice, and spices and stir. Add whiskey and stir once more. If the toddy has cooled down, microwave it for 20-30 seconds to get it back to piping hot, but don’t let it boil.

Notes

The Two Minute Toddy: 
  1. Heat 4-6 ounces of water in your mug in the microwave for one minute.
  2. Add in the whiskey, spices, citrus, and honey. 
  3. Stir. 
  4. Heat again for 20-30 seconds. 
  5. Sip.
Keyword honey, hot cocktail, hot toddy, lemon, whiskey cocktail
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on February 24th, 2021
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location

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