Growing up, a chilly winter day felt a little less brisk with a cup of cocoa, stuffed with marshmallows and topped with whipped cream, cradled in hand. While that childhood beverage brings a nostalgic moment, grandma tended to sip on a different warm beverage that seemed to be the ultimate cure for any ailment. Although the classic cocktail has its place, a few simple swaps can make for a more flavorful hot toddy.
While many modern cocktails dazzle with complicated tinctures, layered ingredients, and elevated spirits, the hot toddy’s origins are relatively simple. Going back centuries to India, the beverage was a warm combination of water, sugar, and spices. Over time, the British evolved the cocktail with local spirits, teas, spices, and a touch of citrus.
Today’s mixologists are using the traditional hot beverage to push the flavor boundaries. Instead of warm water with a splash of a brown spirit, it becomes a complex concoction that is worthy of a lingering moment to savor.
Since a hot toddy is a balance of sweet and sour, the balance needs to be carefully controlled. According to Death & Co bartender, Jake Powell, “At high temperatures, sweetness is less pronounced and sour is way more pronounced, so you have to adjust your ratios compared to making cold drinks. I never use more than a quarter ounce of lemon juice in toddies, compared to a half to ¾ ounce of sweetener depending on the size of the mug.”
While Powell has a preference for the ratio of citrus to other ingredients, a more citrus forward hot toddy can benefit from a simple swap. For example, using Fresh Victor Lemon Sour can be that big punch of lemon flavor.
By carefully warming the Fresh Victor, it hits that zesty bright flavor. When paired with honey and bourbon, the cocktail is refreshing, comforting, and soothing.
While the hot toddy is warm, it is never meant to be boiling hot. Powell’s preference is to serve the warm cocktail around 135-150 degrees. If served too hot, the alcohol can be burned off and defeats the whole purpose of the sipper.
Since there are a wide range of recipes, a flavorful hot toddy needs to focus on ingredients. The Fresh Victor Lemon Sour is one simple swap, others depending on personal preferences.
For example, Powell’s hot toddy is a blend of warm spices and a touch of apple cider. Here’s how to make that version.
Hot Apple Toddy
- 2oz Starward Two-Fold Whisky
- .25oz Honey-Ginger Syrup (3:2)
- .75oz Apple Cider
- .25oz Lemon Juice
- 3 dried cloves
- 3oz Boiling Water
- Lemon Peel
- Cinnamon stick (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a Toddy Glass, add boiling water last. Garnish with a Lemon peel or apple slice.
For a more traditional hot toddy, Crown Royal recommends this recipe. It is a celebration of simplicity.
Crown Hot Toddy
- 1.5 oz. Crown Royal Fine De Luxe
- 1 tsp fine grain sugar
- 2 small clove(s)
- 1.5 oz. boiling water
- Add Crown Royal, fine grain sugar, and cloves in old-fashioned glass or mug
- Add 1-2 oz (or more, if desired) boiling water and stir
If a tea forward hot toddy is preferred, Bluebird Distilling has shared its version of a hot toddy. Matt Giarratano, Head Bartender at Bluebird Distilling, has this modern version which is similar to the popular tea cocktails that are taking over the conversation.
- 1 cup Earl Grey Tea
- 2 oz Bluebird Distilling Winter Whiskey
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Brew a cup of Earl Grey Tea. In a separate mug, combine bourbon, honey, and lemon juice. Carefully pour in hot water, stirring with a spoon until honey is dissolved. Garnish with cinnamon and a touch of raw sugar.
Lastly, whiskey does not have to be the only spirit in the glass. For example Ketel One has a recipe that uses its flavorful vodka. Check out this fruity, vodka cocktail.
Peach Toddy, Ketel One
- 2 ounce KOB Peach & Orange Blossom
- 1 Peach Teabag
- 1 Large Lemon Wedge
- 1 Tbsp. Honey
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 dash Orange Bitters
- 4-5 ounces Hot Water
- Garnish: Lemon Wheel
- Add Ketel One, bitters, teabag, cinnamon stick, and honey to a mug. Top with 4-5 ounces of hot water and stir to dissolve honey. Let sit for 3 minutes, then remove teabag. Squeeze large lemon wedge into mug and discard. Stir to incorporate all ingredients. Garnish with a lemon wheel, in glass, and enjoy.
Ready to sip on a flavorful hot toddy? Share your favorite version by tagging #FoodSided in that photo.