Cocktails 101 | Hot Toddy

11/7/2014 | Amy Tibbals
Stacey Jo Rabiger


Back in the day [like, the 1700s], making a hot toddy didn’t just signify that it was cold outside and you needed a warmer-upper. Nope. Back then, your toddy expressed your cultural baggage, as well as your current geography. The toddy’s historical three-legged stool—with a wobbly base of booze, hot water, and sweetener—pre-dates even the word “cocktail,” and is to this day the common denominator of warming-beverage mixology...give or take a bit of spice or bite of citrus. Irish folks drank hot whiskey with a bit of lemon peel [called a “skin”] if they could find it, while Scots preferred the addition of Highland malt whiskey and a shave of nutmeg. The English even mixed gin in their toddies. The poor used honey for the sweetness, the rich preferred white sugar. Across the pond as early as the 1750s, New Englanders used abundant Applejack [distilled apple cider] and maple syrup to make their Yankee Slings. Southerners had rum, rye whiskey, or bourbon, into which they mixed hot water and sugar, blackstrap molasses or honey. If you were really flush, you’d make your toddy with French brandy [ooo, la la].

 As toddies moved across the U.S. West, the alcohol-to-water ratio tipped dramatically toward higher proofing, and the sweet portion dropped a bit. This was often supplemented by citrus picked up in the warm Southwest. Tequila toddies, anyone? Mark Twain called his nightly Hot Scotch, “the only soporific worth considering,” especially on a cold mountain night. We heartily agree. Bring it, Winter.

 We recently met up with the fine folks at Sugar House Libations for some good old fashioned face time [read here]. Then we dove into the art of a proper drink and did some serious toddy talking at Cody Derrick’s cozy casa on a snowy evening. Read on, and drink up, bitches.


What was your first Hot Toddy experience?  Please let it involve a ski instructor and hot tub. Um, no.  My [Megan’s] first hot toddy experience was when I was about 17 years old. My parents were out of town and my older brother was in charge of taking care of me for a few days. I had started to get a cold and my brother made me a hot toddy. He assured me if I drank one or two of them I would feel so much better and my cold would be gone. I HATED it. After trying to choke it down with a few sips I poured it out and hadn't tried another one until about two years ago (13 years later). Now I'm obsessed.

Making great toddies takes balance. What’s your favorite ratio for booze, hot water, sweet, spice, etc.? The ratio we prefer is 1.5 oz. booze, 1.5 oz. Sugar House Libations syrup [or 1 tbs. other sweetener], 6 oz. hot water, and juice from 1/4 of a lemon. For spice, add one cinnamon stick, some nutmeg, or a few cloves. When tasting the toddy, we like a balanced profile of citrus and spice. Too much of either can activate the cough reflex, which is the opposite of the desired effect. We like it to be smooth, but we should still be able to pick out the desired notes of the ingredients.

Most Toddy recipes are made for one or two drinks at a time, which is easy to maintain for temperature control. What do you do when you are serving the raving masses, like for the CityHomeCOLLECTIVE After Hours Market a few weeks ago? 1) Have the water at a constant temperature, rather than refilling after every cocktail or two. Different temps will bring out different flavors of the drink. You also want it hot enough to enjoy the entire cocktail, it's a bummer when it is cool for the last few sips. 2) Pre-slice the citrus. Have some quartered for squeezing fresh juice and have some sliced thin for a garnish. 3) Use fresh, whole cloves. This way you don't inhale ground clove or get a sip that's unbalanced in its flavor profile. 4) Use cinnamon sticks to stir and flavor the cocktail; this keeps things from settling [a.k.a. smooth cocktail from the first sip to the last]. 5) Create a mood with your cocktail. Think about what drinking vessel will best suit it [mason jar, white ceramic mug, hefty hand-spun mug, etc.]. 6) When serving a crowd, it's tempting to create a large batch and ladle individual servings, but, there's something special about crafting each toddy individually. It makes it an experience, not just a great drink. 7) When doing cocktails for events, we like to have a small recipe card out so people know what they're drinking. It's also fun for them to take it home and try it out themselves...put their own signature spin on it.

*Okay...time to make the drank. There's a pretty basic Toddy-building format to follow: mix all of the ingredients except for the hot water in an 8 oz. mug with a spoon or cinnamon stick until the sweetening element is completely dissolved.  Then, add very hot [but not boiling] water just before serving. The Libations crew gave us a few of their fave toddy recipes below. Pick your poison, and whip it up.

Green Apple-Cinnamon Toddy [serves one]

1.5 oz. bourbon
1.5 oz. Sugar House Libations Green Apple-Cinnamon Infused Syrup
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
4 - 5 whole cloves
6 oz. hot water

The Hot Bobby [serves one]

1.5 oz. Reposado Tequila
1.5 oz. Sugar House Libations Green Apple-Cinnamon Infused Syrup
5 oz. hot water
2 dashes orange bitters
1 orange twist [release oil into glass, rim glass with twist, drop it in]

Pear-Ginger Spiced Cider [serves two]

1/3 quart sweet apple cider
5 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. cup of orange juice
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
3 oz. Sugar House Libations Pear-Ginger Infused Syrup
3 oz. dark rum [heat all ingredients except rum to bare simmer, pour into mug, then add rum]

*Note: Try my Smoked Bacon Bourbon Spiced Toddy on my blog [A Bourbon Gal in Utah]. Then find a comfy chair, sit back, and watch the snowflakes fly.



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