Hot Toddy- A Cocktail for the Cold & Flu Season


There is no denying we are in the depths of winter. You know, the dreaded “cold and flu” season. Even here in California, the night air is getting nippier, the days a bit shorter, and more than one person in my life is miserable and sniffly.

Gone are lazy afternoons drifting into sultry evenings– sipping tall glasses of iced tea, lemonade, or even frosty margaritas. Cool weather sees us choosing steamy mugs of coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, and dare I say–  hot toddies?

I want you to know that the hot toddy is more than just a beverage with a funny name. You probably associate it with ski lodges. Hot toddies and ski lodges are indeed a good combination. But more likely, when winter rolls around, you consider the hot toddy as the original nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine. Of course, I don’t know how much actual medical science is behind that theory, but I’ll admit a hot toddy can even make the flu seem more fun.

Basically a hot toddy is made with a spirit (typically some sort of whiskey) sweetened  with honey, and balanced with fresh lemon juice. This combination is then warmed with a dose of tea, coffee, apple cider, or just plain hot water.

My favorite version is made with honey, lemon, black tea, and bourbon. But rum and brandy are good choices too. Simple enough, right?

Less simple is the origin of the hot toddy. It is a very old drink and the tales it may tell are hard to confirm, they may even be unknowable. The most accepted story says it was created in the 1700s in Scotland as an socially appropriate way for women to enjoy whiskey. Because scotch whiskey, with its smokey flavor, was not considered compatible with the feminine palate. Sugar sweetened its taste and serving it diluted with something warm cooled the alcoholic burn. None of this is confirmable, I’ll have you know. So consider this and all that follows gossip. Perhaps even gossip to be dished over a warm mug of you know what…

So as we welcome cold and flu season, let’s all raise a mug and say ahh-cheers. It’s a lot more fun than ah-chew! GREG

Hot Toddy serves 2 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 c water
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 shots bourbon
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 2 bags black tea
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • 2 pn cloves, to taste (optional)
  • 2 lemon wedges (optional)

Bring the water to a boil in a kettle. Drizzle half the honey onto the bottom of each of 2 very large mugs. Then add half the bourbon and lemon juice to each mug. Once the water reaches near boiling, but not quite, place one teabag in each mug and fill them nearly full with the hot water. Garnish with any combination of whole cloves, cinnamon stick, and/or lemon wedge.

This was originally written as part of my Friday posts for the blog The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. I hope you are reading all the passionate cooks and writers who post there. 

Photo: Liv friis-larsen

Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining for The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in PanamaCosta Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.