Laura Dean Bennett
This is the time of year when the cold tries to seep into our bones and terms like Hot Toddy seep into our consciousness.
Probably everybody has heard of hot toddies.
But I didn’t really know what they were.
As usual, I learn a lot when I do research for a story.
The toddy is actually an old-fashioned style of cocktail that has been around in this country for way more than a hundred years.
By definition, a toddy is the simplest of spirited beverages – a drink with a distilled spirit, sweetener and water.
While it can be served either hot or cold, the Hot Toddy is the most popular of the two.
Some say that the origin of the term, Hot Toddy, comes from the British colony of India.
The word “taddy” in Hindi, referred to a venerable Indian beverage made from fermented palm sap, which dated back to at least the 1600s.
By the mid-18th century, a “taddy” in India was well-known to refer to a beverage of fermentd alcoholic liquor made with hot water, sugar and spices.
In this version of how the Hot Toddy came to be, the British, known for appropriating all manner of cultural delicacies from around their empire, brought the drink back from India to England, where it became an exotic winter-time favorite.
Others insist that the name Hot Toddy came from 18th century Edinburgh.
As legend has it, Scottish pubs originated the concept of a “mixed drink” by mixing Scotch whiskey with a splash of hot water.
And this water wasn’t just any water.
It was said to have come from Tod’s Well, the largest well in the Edinburgh.
The famous well supposedly gave the drink its name.
The “Toddy” was very popular in Scotland during the 17-and-1800s, when it was used for medicinal purposes – to ward off the cold of the long and bitter Scottish winters.
Whatever the actual origin may have been, by the time British and European colonists arrived in the New World and found themselves braving blustery American winters, the Hot Toddy was considered a standard medicinal draught.
The drink was typically served piping hot, in large bowls shared by multiple patrons.
In the colonies, traditional recipes varied slightly from region to region.
As it was easier to obtain rum from the Caribbean than whiskey from the old country, an American Hot Toddy usually contained sugar and spices mixed with water and rum rather than whiskey.
And in some pubs, the recipe even featured a combination of egg yolks and rum.
Here is one variation of a “Traditional Hot Toddy”
2 ounces rum or whiskey
1/2 teaspoon sugar (more or less to taste)
One scrape of nutmeg (optional)
Heat water to boiling in a saucepan or kettle. Measure rum or whiskey into a tall mug. Fill to the top with hot water and spoon in sugar, stirring to blend. Grate some nutmeg on top if desired. Drink hot.
And, in this modern counterpart, a combination of fresh ginger, cardamom and cinnamon makes this drink a practical cure for the onset of any wintry cold.
It’s easy to make, too. It comes together in as much time as it takes to boil water.
A pat of butter delivers a soft silkiness, and the spices are so delicious, you can practically taste them fighting off viruses.
The maple rum lends a sweetness which means you can go easier on the sugar.
(Maple) Rum Toddy
2- 3 cardamom pods
1 pat of unsalted butter
A few slices of peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of light brown sugar, or more to taste
Pinch of orange zest, or an orange twist
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon, or a cinnamon stick
1 dram or 1/8 ounce of maple rum, or to desired strength
A few drops of vanilla (optional)
Add cardamom pods to bottom of a tall mug and muddle slightly with pestle or other blunt kitchen tool. Add butter, ginger, sugar, orange zest and spices. In a separate mug, combine rum and hot water and then pour over spice mixture. Stir to dissolve butter and sugar, add a few drops of vanilla if desired and serve.
If you do not have cardamom pods, you may substitute an eighth to a quarter of a teaspoon of cardamom powder for 2-3 pods.
As I said, traditionally, a toddy is a drink with a distilled spirit, sweetener and water.
But it doesn’t have to use a distilled spirit to be a delicious, warming toddy. There’s no law against a hot toddy being non-alcoholic.
See what you think about this one.
“Hot Grapefruit Toddy”
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. whole cloves
6 cups grapefruit juice (pink grapefruit juice optional)
Combine sugar and spices in a saucepan, stir in the grapefruit juice and heat slowly. Pour into 6-ounce mugs. Makes 8 toddies.
Lots of hot toddy recipes call for using tea as a base. How about this recipe from “the spruce Eats:”
“Hot Not Toddy”
7 ounces hot tea- add last
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (grated, or 1 cinnamon stick)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
Garnish with a lemon wedge
Gather the ingredients. In a warm Irish coffee mug, add the honey, lemon juice, and spices. Top with hot, freshly brewed tea. Stir well.
Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Serve and enjoy.
Here are a few tips for a tea based toddy:
While waiting for your tea to brew, pour hot water into the mug or glass warm vessel for a longer lasting warm drink.
As with all food and drink, adjustments can be made to suit your taste.
If you have whole spices – particularly the cloves, which are most often whole – contain them in your mug by placing them in a tea ball or similar strainer.
You can also skip the ground cinnamon and use a whole stick instead. It doubles as a stir stick.
Add other spices that please you.
Ginger is a great addition when you have a cold. It can be added in ground, paste, or sliced form.
Allspice, anise and vanilla (either part of a bean or a dash of extract) are good options, as well.
Essentially, anything you would put into a mulled wine or hot apple cider works great in a Hot Toddy.
We haven’t seen it yet this year, but it could be a long, cold winter. Hot toddies aren’t about drinking, they’re about surviving.
Gather your supplies now, and be ready to batten the hatches.