There's really nothing like sipping on a Bourbon and Honey Hot Toddy before turning in on a cold winter night. Whether you're trying to warm up, or need to soothe a sore throat and cough, this will become one of your favorite Bourbon cocktails on chilly evenings.
A Victorian Medicinal Treatment that Tastes Great
A nice classic cocktail that is also a warm drink, or hot toddy, on a cold night (or cold day) is perfect for relaxing -- hot fire in the fireplace is optional!
The word toddy likely evolved from the 17th century Hindi word taddy, meaning a fermented beverage. However, some say it was named after a London physician who dispensed a recipe for a hot drink made with spirits. Either way, it was a good idea and we can all agree that this warming drink works as it's supposed to, and for that we can all be thankful!
Mixing spirits with hot water was thought to be a treatment for many mid-18th century Victorian-era cold symptoms such as a sore throat, common cold, or even a toothache. There may actually be a little bit truth to the claim it was a medicinal aid. The vitamin C from the strip of lemon peel was beneficial, and certainly the alcohol acted to numb pain. Also, the honey coated the throat, and the heat could clear the sinuses as well as any chamomile tea or black tea could. Instead of aspirin, the Victorians reached for a hot whiskey drink as cold medicine. It was the best bedtime solution when they didn't feel well and didn't get sick days.
Whether it was used as a cure-all drink or a pleasant way to end a long day, this hot cocktail has had staying power for over two hundred years because it is truly the perfect winter drink.
Finding The Classic Hot Toddy Recipe in Mid Century
Tennessee Williams referenced the bourbon hot toddy cocktail in his 1954 book Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, when main character Brick Pollitt indulges in the whiskey cocktail. But that isn't the only time the hot toddy made an appearance in mid century -- it was a popular cold weather drink of that era. If you have any doubt, just look in antique stores or online for vintage hot toddy glass mugs. They were a staple of the 1950's and 60's and are still readily available. They're perfect for hot tea, hot apple cider or other winter cocktails. I recently picked up a great set of vintage, stamped Federal hot toddy glasses with a display rack. And it's no big surprise that I've been putting them to good use for this hot toddy drink (just last night, in fact!)
Ingredients for a Hot Toddy
There's nothing to mixing up a mug of this warm cup of comfort. Aside from your favorite mug, you'll need:
- Hot filtered water
- Your favorite type of whiskey such as Bourbon whiskey, Irish whiskey, or even rye whiskey (however, I believe Bourbon is the best liquor to use.)
- Local honey if you can find a good one in your local grocery store
- Fresh lemon juice and a lemon wedge for garnish
- Cinnamon stick
You can add other whole spices like star anise pods, nutmeg, ground cloves or whole cloves for extra flavor. That changes the taste of the drink too much for me, so I like to stick to the basics on the recipe card. However, it's good to have these options on hand to cater to different preferences when serving hot toddies at a holiday party.
Bar Tools Needed
You don't need any fancy bar tools to make this cocktail, but you will need to borrow some kitchen basics:
- Pot or tea kettle for heating the water (I like to "cheat" and use an electric kettle such as this one)
- 2 Drinking mugs or one large mug (or try an insulated heatproof mug)
- Mixing glass
- Bar knife
- Bar spoon
How to Make a Delicious Hot Toddy
This hot toddy recipe is so easy that even at the end of a long day, you'll still have plenty of energy to make it. So throw away the tea bag and follow these simple steps for a comforting evening drink:
- Heat the water to just below boiling
- Pour into the mixing glass
- Add the honey
- Add the lemon
- Add a couple of ounces of Bourbon
- Stir with a cinnamon stick until well mixed and the honey is dissolved
- Pour into mugs
- Garnish with a lemon slice or lemon wedge, and even a cinnamon stick and a couple of cranberries if you like.
Tips for a Successful Hot Toddy
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Start out easy with amount of tart lemon juice you use. I recommend starting with a little and adding more as you taste-test, otherwise it may be too tart.
- I recommend using honey, because honey dissolves well and is so soothing. Some people like to use maple syrup or brown sugar. I would not recommend a simple syrup made from Demerara sugar for this drink, though. I'd also skip the agave nectar. Both of those are too sweet.
- Choose a quality base spirit when making this, or any other cocktails. I usually prefer a wheated Bourbon such as Maker's Mark because it is sweet and not overpowering. Of course, Buffalo Trace Bourbon makes for a great option as an every day mixer as well, so that's the one I usually reach for.
- If you like a little spice in your whiskey, don't be afraid to try a Bourbon like Basil Hayden's, which has a high-rye content to give it a little kick. If you do prefer rye as your favorite whiskey, try Bulleit rye in this comforting cocktail.
Frequently Asked Questions
I prefer a wheated Bourbon because of the sweet taste. I think it cuts down on the sharp lemon acid and compliments the honey.
Yes, you can heat Bourbon and it makes for a great warm cocktail. I just pour it directly in the mug of hot water while making a hot toddy. Warm Bourbon is great in colder months!
This mixed drink is very versatile. Traditionally it's Bourbon, but you can also use rye, rum or even brandy in your hot toddy cocktail. Its flexibility is good news for people who aren't Bourbon fans.
Do you drink a hot toddy for its medicinal qualities? Which alcohol do you use, Bourbon, rye, dark rum or brandy?
Before you go, did you try this cocktail? Why not leave a comment in the comments section along with a rating? I always appreciate hearing from you and getting your feedback.
Easy Bourbon Hot Toddy
- 1-½ cups hot water
- 2 oz Bourbon
- ¼ oz fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- lemon rounds for garnish
- Add hot water to a mixing glass.
- Add the honey.
- Add the lemon juice.
- Add the Bourbon--stir with a cinnamon stick to dissolve the honey.
- Pour into mugs
- Add lemon rounds and serve