To celebrate National Hot Toddy Day this month, we looked into the history behind this classic cocktail.
It’s the time of year for sniffles and coughs. Between cold and flu season and the sometimes chillier weather, many are looking for comfort in the winter months, whether it’s a cozy blanket, chicken noodle soup or a hot toddy that does that trick.
With National Hot Toddy Day on Jan. 11, let’s take a look at this cocktail’s history. The traditional recipe is a simple mixture of whiskey, honey, hot water and lemon, although warm spices such as cinnamon and clove can be added to shake it up a bit. Other dark liquors like bourbon, scotch or rum are often substituted for whiskey as well.
Harsh Winters & Hot Drinks
While we know the hot toddy has been around for a long time, there are several origin stories for this beverage. During the 1600s in India, a taddy was made from fermented palm tree sap. It wasn’t written down until the 1700s, when India was under Britain rule. At that time it was described as “a beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar and spices.” It’s thought that the British trade routes helped it move into the United Kingdom, where it was consumed during the area’s harsh winters.
Another 18th-century variation says that the hot toddy became popular in Western Europe when pubs in Edinburgh, Scotland fought the cold by serving Scotch whiskey with boiling water drawn from Tod’s Well. Some won’t even consider it a hot toddy unless the water comes directly from this well. It has also been said that sugar and spices from the British trade routes were added to whiskey to make it easier to drink for women in this time period.
Then there is the story that formed the idea of the hot toddy being a medicinal beverage. Robert Bentley Todd, a doctor in mid-19th century Ireland, prescribed a mixture of brandy, white cinnamon and hot sugar water to his ill patients.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can expect to be sick for one to two weeks if you catch a cold. When you consider its suggested remedies, including sipping warm lemon water with honey to stay hydrated, soothe the throat and ease congestion, it’s easy to see how one hot toddy might help make you feel better. However, it should be noted that alcohol should never be combined with any medications.
The traditional Hot Toddy recipe is pretty basic, but it provides a foundation to experiment with regional flavors. This version features Florida’s famous fruit to brighten up a cold day.
Recipe Courtesy of National Honey Board
1 orange-flavored tea bag
1 tablespoon honey
1 ounce premium orange liqueur
1 ounce brandy
Place an orange-flavored tea bag in a mug and add boiling water, 3/4 full. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and add the honey, brandy and orange liqueur. Garnish with orange slices.