THE HOT TODDY
As nights draw in and autumn winds chill, it’s finally the season for comforting hot toddies to return. Hot water, honey and lemon, mixed with a good measure of whisky, complete the rejuvenating winter warmer, as Inka Larissa explains
Alcohol has for a long time been used for medicinal purposes. You often hear of people turning to a hot toddy because they feel they’re coming down with a cold. Consider a hot toddy as the alcoholic version of a relaxing chicken soup – it warms you up, soothes your throat, and relieves aches and pains. But like with all cocktails, there are many stories around the name and the origin of the recipe.
Hot toddy originates from the Hindi word taddy, which in British-occupied India was a drink made with fermented palm sap. By around the mid-18th century taddy had evolved into a beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices. It makes sense that the taddy would have made its way to Scotland, where it complements the cold and damp weather perfectly.
Back then most whiskies were peated and sweeteners were used to make the smoky flavour more palatable. As Dr Nicholas Morgan put it when talking to The Whisky Exchange about his book A Long Stride: The History of the World’s No.1 Scotch Whisky: “From the mid-to-later 19th century, you have what I would call ‘toddy whisky’, because for respectable drinkers that was how you would drink it, with hot water and sugar and lemon – if you were lucky: you could never get lemons in Glasgow, people would complain, but that was how it should have been drunk. These were really heavy whiskies – there’s a great description of them in the book – oily and heavy and peaty.”
There are two different tales of how taddy transformed into the familiar hot toddy. One takes place in the wintery streets of Edinburgh, where pubs were believed to serve customers hot drams to help keep them warm. In 18th century Edinburgh lots of drinking water was allegedly sourced from ‘Tod’s Well’, also lending its name to the beverage.
Another story involves an Irish doctor, Robert Bentley Todd, who prescribed his patients a recipe of hot brandy, water, cinnamon and sugar. It is said that he first became familiar with a similar recipe in India, from which he then adapted his own mixture.
The hot toddy made it to America in the 1880s where it was first known as ‘hot Scotch’. There are as many legends surrounding this drink as variations in how you can make one.
Here are some of my favourites:
Hot Ginger Toddy
You can use this same template but switch out the ginger for orange or cherry liqueur. If you change the liqueur, note that you may need to choose a different whisky to match the flavour profile. For the recipe with ginger, it’s recommended to use a whisky with a sweet bourbon influence, such as our Sweet, Fruity & Mellow flavour profile.
Hot water 25ml Sweet, Fruity & Mellow whisky 15ml ginger liqueur Honey, adjust to taste (the liqueur will already bring sweetness) Lemon wedge
Add hot water into a mug. Measure in whisky, liqueur, honey and a squeeze of lemon. Stir well and serve immediately.
Black Tea Toddy
This recipe is great if you are low on energy as black tea contains caffeine. Feel free to use whatever spices are available to you. I recommend choosing an SMWS whisky from either the Juicy, Oak & Vanilla, or Spicy & Sweet categories.
35ml whisky, either Juicy, Oak & Vanilla, or Spicy & Sweet 1 mug of water 1 cinnamon stick 2 cardamom pods 5 cloves 1tbs black tea leaves 1tsp honey, adjust to taste Lemon wedge
In a pot, combine water and spices. Bring to boiling point and take off the heat. Add in tea leaves and allow it to steep for a few minutes. If you want, heat the mug by pouring in hot water. Once the tea is ready, discard the water from the mug and strain in the tea, mix in honey and lemon. Finally, pour in the whisky.
Apple Cider Toddy
This is more like a mulled cider, but the addition of whisky will kick your cold in the butt. For this recipe, try whiskies from the Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits or Juicy, Oak & Vanilla categories.
25ml whisky either Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits or Juicy, Oak & Vanilla 1tsp honey 1 cinnamon stick 1 star anise, optional as not to everyone’s taste 1 orange wheel 5 cloves 1 mug of apple cider
Stick the cloves into the orange wheel. Combine the cider with the spices in a pot and let it simmer, but do not allow it to boil. Once the cider has taken some of the flavour from the spices, strain the liquid into a warm mug. Add honey to taste and a double shot of whisky.