Hot Toddies to Drive Away Election Blues | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Hot Toddies to Drive Away Election Blues

Hot Toddies to Drive Away Election Blues

Hot Toddy. Courtesy Becky Stern used under CC 2.0

Stir Up a Warming and Reviving Elixir While Watching Election Results

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The perfect remedy for a stressful election day is a warming restorative cocktail such as a hot toddy.

The hot toddy is most directly associated with Scotland, and refers to a mixed alcoholic drink that is served hot. While there are many great variations, the essential elements of the hot toddy are as follows: (1) a spirit base such as scotch, whiskey, brandy, or dark rum; (2) hot water or some other hot liquid such as tea, coffee, or milk; and (3) some kind of sweetener like honey, sugar, or syrup. This basic formula can be enhanced with herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc. While it doesn’t work in every combination, one typically adds a citrus element, such as lemon or orange, sometimes in juice form or sometimes as a garnish.

Generally enjoyed in cold weather, and often sipped late in the evening to facilitate sleep, the hot toddy is actually a fairly versatile potion, one that can be enjoyed in much the same fashion as an evening tea or after-dinner coffee. Or, for that matter, you can sip one with breakfast, if you are so inclined, but I suspect this won’t escape the attention of co-workers, supervisors, or clients and, therefore, don’t recommend it.

The precise history of the hot toddy is unknown. One popular yet highly unlikely etymologically grounded theory states that the hot toddy was introduced into Scotland by a British East India Company man from “tari tadi,” a Hindu term that refers to a distillation of sap from several varieties of palm tree, such as the jaggery, wild date, Palmyra, or cocoa nut palm.

Far more likely is the explanation offered by the poet Allan Ramsay. In his 1721 poem “The Morning Interview,” Ramsay depicts a rather grand tea party in which he describes various items by their national identity: tea from China, sugar from the West Indies, and “Scotia does no such costly tribute bring/Only some kettles full of Todian spring.” Ramsay elucidates this in a footnote: “The Todian spring, i.e. Tod’s Well, which supplies Edinburgh with water.”

In Scottish folklore this is readily understood as a reference to whiskey, which is derived from the Scottish Gaelic term “uisge beatha,” or “water of life.” Sure enough, the 1786 publication of the poem “Holy Fair” by Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous bard, employs toddy as slang for whiskey — and the now mostly unread, and largely unreadable Burns is most assuredly the final word on Scottish authenticity.

As long ago as 200 years ago, the hot toddy was already being made with other brown spirits, such as Irish whiskey, dark rum, American whiskey, and brandy. All of these are fine; just avoid using white spirits, such as gin, silver rum, vodka, or tequila, as these will result, in my humble opinion, in a decidedly nasty beverage. There are folks out there who go in for this sort of thing, but then there are folks who will go for just about any sort of thing. To each their own, but you have been warned.

Another source of basic recipe variations calls for using tea instead of hot water. Doing so offers a plethora of flavors to toy with. A chef’s pantry of herbs and spices offers even more fertile pasture for positive invention and variation. As in all things, be guided by your senses.


Here then are three great hot toddy recipes for you to slip into:

Hot Toddy (Highland)

Use a good Highland single malt Scotch whiskey. The Dalmore 12 or Macallan 12 are great here, though any non-peaty, non-smoky Highland Scotch malt whiskey will work fine.

2 ounces Highland Scotch whiskey

1 to 3 ounces boiling water

1/2-ounce lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey (or brown sugar)

3 drops Angostura bitters

1 slice lemon, studded with cloves

A sprinkle of ground nutmeg

Into a heatproof glass or large coffee mug, put the sugar, bitters, lemon juice, and clove-studded lemon slice. Add the whiskey, pour in one third of the boiling water, and stir gently until the honey or sugar dissolves; add more boiling water to bring it back up to temperature, and fill your cup to the desired level. Dust lightly with nutmeg, and sip lovingly.


Hot Toddy (Islay)

Use a good smoky, peaty Islay single malt Scotch whiskey. The Laphroaig 10 or Ardbeg 10 are great here, though any smoky Islay Scotch should do nicely.

2 ounces Scotch whiskey

1 to 3 ounces boiling water

1 teaspoon Demerara sugar (or one lump)

Lemon peel

Into a heatproof glass or large coffee mug, put the Demerara sugar and a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel. Stir in 1 ounce of boiling water until the sugar is dissolved, then add the Islay Scotch whiskey. Finish with more boiling water to bring it all back up to temp and fill your cup to the desired level.


Hot Toddy (American)

A softer wheat accented bourbon like Makers Mark works great here, but really any bourbon should get the job done nicely.

2 ounces bourbon whiskey

2 ounces fresh lemon juice

2 to 3 ounces boiling water

1 tablespoon honey

Into a heatproof glass or large coffee mug apply the same directions as before.

Try one, try all, or create your own. This’ll not only help keep you warm and cure what ails you, but should help lighten and brighten your evening too.

 L’Chaim!

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