Hot Toddy: The Little Cure-All That Could

As the days grow colder and shorter, there’s nothing quite like a hot toddy to warm you up. Nothing soothes a case of the sniffles, it seems, better than a mug of spiced hot water with some lemon, honey, and a wee splash of booze. An age-old cold remedy, the hot toddy has been used to ease congestion and aid with sleep. It’s the perfect nightime drink; deliciously warm and sweet. Traditionally, hot toddys are enjoyed before bed, or during the wet, cold, winter months. The aromatic steam helps to clear the sinuses as each gulp warms the body and soothes the throat, while the whiskey tucks you in and says goodnight. 

hot toddy fixings

The exact origin of the hot toddy is undetermined. Many believe it was created in Scotland in the 1700’s as a nightcap for women. At the time, the scotch available was believed to be overly smoky with a peaty flavour not favoured by women. By adding a bit of sweetness and spice, the drink was thought to become much more palatable for women. As for the name, hot toddy, a common theory suggests that a toddy was a popular Indian drink made from fermenting palm tree sap. Others believe the poet Alan Ramsay inspired the name with his poem The Morning Interview, where he refers to water from the Todian Spring. Source.

While the origins of the hot doddy are hazy, what imbibers are likely to agree on is how simple it is to make. According to David Wondrich in his cocktail history Imbibe! , a toddy “is a simple drink in the same way a tripod is a simple device. Remove one leg and it cannot stand; set it up properly and it will hold the weight of the world.”

The four traditional toddy ingredients are: honey, hot water, lemon and bourbon, though this too is not set in stone. Hot toddies can be made with any preferred spirit including rum, gin, brandy or whiskey, or made non-alcoholic with black tea or hot apple cider. A variation is the hot butter rum toddy, made by adding a smidgeon of butter and brown sugar and dark rum to a regular toddy.

Irish Times hot toddy

The Irish Times in Victoria makes a classic hot toddy with a pre-warmed glass of hot water, lemon, honey and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, garnished with a cinnamon stick. (Single $6.95 and double $9.15). The menu includes a cute little cure all too: “vitamin C for health, honey to soothe, and whiskey to numb.”

How to make various hot toddy. Click to expand

The ultimate hot toddy:

1 Ounce (2 Tablespoons) of bourbon

1 Tablespoon of honey

2 Teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

¼ Cup boiling-hot water



Put bourbon, honey, and lemon into a 6-ounce mug. Top off with water and stir until honey is dissolved. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a wedge of lemon.

Apple Cider Hot Toddy

2 Ounces whiskey or apple brandy

1 Teaspoon of sugar

Hot apple cider

Lemon wedge for garnish

Cinnamon stick for garnish

2-3 Cloves for garnish



Coat bottom of mug or glass with honey. Add the whiskey or brandy. Fill with hot apple cider and stir well. Garnish with lemon, cinnamon and cloves.

Butter Rum Toddy

1 Small slice of soft butter

1 Teapoon of brown sugar

1 Pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and nutmeg

2 Ounces of dark rum

Boiled water



Place the butter, sugar and spices in the bottom of your mug or heat-proof glass. Pour in the rum and hot water. Mix well and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Black Tea Toddy

1 Cup water

2 Tablespoons of honey

2 Ounces of bourbon

2 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 Black tea bag

Cinnamon stick, cloves, and lemon wedge for garnish.



Bring water to a boil. Drizzle honey into bottom of mug or heat resistant glass. Add bourbon, tea bag and lemon juice, fill with hot water. Garnish with cloves, cinnamon and lemon.

Snow Apple Spice Toddy (from Silk Road Tea)

A seasonal blend of black tea, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla beans and apple essence.

Add 1 teaspoon of honey and 1-2 oz of whiskey or dark rum per cup of tea. Garnish with cinnamon stick and a thinly sliced apple.

 Source for most recipes.

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Written By:

Holly Brooke is a true B.C. gal. Having lived on the west coast most of her life, except for several years in the Kootenay's where she canoed and fished and lived in a tipi, she's very much at home outdoors and in the kitchen. ...

1 Comment

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