The Hot Toddy Is The New Nightcap

Food & Drink

I have a new nightly ritual and it is not what I ever expected to add into my routine.  It’s The Hot Toddy and I can’t think of a more relaxing bit of self-care this time of year.  

Whether it is an old wives tale or the truth, a Hot Toddy is said to alleviate a cold because it is a decongestant. In “clinical” terms, the alcohol in whiskey dilates the blood vessels, making it easier for your body to deal with the infection. Spirits combined with hot water (or herbal tea) honey and lemon is a beverage that helps clear up your cold symptoms and makes you feel toasty and cozy. According to folklore, by the time you finish the drink you will be breathing better, and the alcohol will start to make you drowsy so you can rest easy. 

It’s also a great nightcap and you don’t need to be under the weather to enjoy it. I owe my new found love for The Hot Toddy to an unexpected whiskey.

A few months ago, a friend in the business sent me a bottle of whiskey—Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey.  I was fully prepared to take a sip and dismiss it because while flavored spirits are not bad, they are not usually to my personal taste. 

As I learned a little more about the brand, I discovered that Misunderstood is a whiskey blended for easy drinking—not for Bourbon snobbery. I love the tagline on their website where they proudly state that “We don’t make whiskey to impress critics…but some seem to like us!” My interpretation of that is that their spirit is made for anyone who likes the classic combination of Bourbon and ginger. If you haven’t tried it, may I suggest adding a spicy ginger ale like Blenheim or your favorite ginger beer to Bourbon. I am not alone in thinking that it is one of the best ways to drink American whiskey.

Ginger also goes hand-in-hand with spiced turmeric tea, one of my favorite nighttime teas. On a whim, I poured a healthy shot of the ginger-spiced whiskey into my honey-sweetened tea. One sip was all I needed to fall in love with the spiked hot beverage and my new nighttime ritual was born. Since then, I have tried all sorts of Hot Toddys and I love them all for different reasons.

The traditional Hot Toddy is made with Scotch whisky, American or Irish whiskey, lemon, honey and hot water. Today, almost every spirit is game. If you can drink it hot, it can be a Hot Toddy. I prefer using an herbal tea flavor base and if you think of it in those terms, you can make a Hot Toddy with any of your favorite teas. So far, my favorites combinations are:

  1. Traditional Scotch Hot Toddy with a Cinnamon Stick
  2. Hibiscus—think Red Zinger tea—and Tequila 
  3. Chamomile and Honey with Irish Whiskey 
  4. Turmeric Tea with Spiced Ginger Bourbon 

My basic ratio is the same for each drink, I make my herbal tea and only add three-quarters as much water as usual. I generally add 1 tablespoon of honey because I don’t like my drinks too sweet—if you like it sweeter, add more. If I am making a traditional Hot Toddy, I add the juice of one lemon, hot water and 1-2 tablespoons of honey to make my base. Finally, I add 1-2 ounces of the spirit that I am using based on how strong I want the drink to be. This “recipe” works for everything that I have tried so far and is not any more difficult than making a cup of tea sweetened with honey—just add your favorite spirit and enjoy your sweet dreams.

Classic Hot Toddy

Makes 1 drink

1          ounce (or 2 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice

1          cup boiling water

1-2       tablespoon honey, to taste

1-2       ounces favorite Scotch whisky such as Aberlour 12 YO, Bowmore12 YO, Bruichladdich, The Classic Laddie 

Lemon slices and Cinnamon Sticks for garnish

Combine fresh lemon juice, boiling water and honey in your favorite mug. Add whisky and stir. If it is too tart, add more honey. Garnish with lemon slices and cinnamon sticks if desired. Enjoy it while it’s hot! 

Hibiscus and Tequila Hot Toddy

Makes 1 drink

1          cup hot water

1          Red Zinger or other favorite Hibiscus tea bag 

1          tablespoon honey

1-2       ounces favorite Reposado Tequila such as El Tesoro, Don Julio, Herradura

Sprig of mint, slice of lime or other citrus for garnish, if desired

Make tea in your favorite mug by pouring boiling water over tea bag. Let steep 5 minutes. Add honey and Tequila and stir to combine. Garnish with mint, lime slices or other citrus if desired. Enjoy it while it’s hot! 

Spiced Turmeric Tea and Bourbon Hot Toddy

Makes 1 drink

1          cup hot water

1          Spiced Turmeric tea bag

1          tablespoon honey

1-2       ounces Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whiskey or other favorite Bourbon

Slice of crystalized ginger or cinnamon stick for garnish, if desired

Make tea in your favorite mug by pouring boiling water over tea bag. Let steep 5 minutes. Add honey and Bourbon and stir to combine. Garnish with crystallized ginger and cinnamon sticks, if desired. Enjoy it while it’s hot! 

Chamomile and Irish Whiskey Hot Toddy

Makes 1 drink

1          cup hot water

1          Chamomile tea bag

1          tablespoon honey

1-2      ounces favorite Irish whiskey such as Kilbeggan Single Grain Whiskey, Jameson Orange, Green Spot

Make tea in your favorite mug by pouring boiling water over tea bag. I am partial to the Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea. Let steep 5 minutes. Add honey and Irish Whiskey and stir to combine. Enjoy it while it’s hot!

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