Today is National Hot Toddy day, and it’s a good thing, because this is what it looks like at my house today.
If a surprise foot of overnight snow doesn’t call for a hot toddy, nothing does.
I made hot toddies a lot when I was in college, almost always with rye. Back then, rye whiskey wasn’t the industry-leading category it is today (and I didn’t have a lot of cash to splash around at the liquor store), so I used Old Overholt, just about the only rye I could find. These days, I like something with a little more oomph, although I still opt for rye to balance the sweetness of the honey. Pikesville is a nice one, but so is Sazerac, and there are so many craft ryes out there now.
Some cocktails are all about balance, and that means precision—a teaspoon of that, a few drops of this, a mist of something else applied from exactly six inches away. But the hot toddy is a forgiving cocktail, and I’ve found that it rewards improvisation like few other drinks. Don’t like rye? Try bourbon, although I’ve found some of the sweeter ones can push the drink in an unbalanced, saccharine direction. Or skip the whiskey altogether (heresy!) and use brandy, then imagine you’re being rescued from an avalanche in the Swiss Alps by a friendly St. Bernard. Give yourself permission to experiment.
To get you started, here’s a non-recipe, a place to begin that will help you design your very own perfect hot toddy.
Start by putting the kettle on, and pick out the mug you want to use. I like to use a small mug so my drink doesn’t get cold before I’m done drinking it, but you do you.
Dollop a generous amount of honey in there, and maybe a compatible tea—lemon ginger, chamomile, and rooibos have all served me well in the past, but I’m sure there are many fun options left unexplored. Why not get some citrus in the mix, too? Throw in a generous squeeze of lemon or orange. But leave the whiskey out for now.
Once the water boils, pour it over your tea/honey/citrus concoction, and let it steep for a few minutes. Remove the tea bag, and check the temperature of your base. You don’t want it to be too hot, or your whiskey will volatilize and create unpleasant, vaporous aromas.
Once the temp gets down to a comfortably drinkable temperature, add your whiskey, anywhere from one to two ounces, depending on how big your mug is. Stir. Taste. Adjust as necessary, and repeat. If you’re feeling fancy, float a lemon wheel or cinnamon stick in there. If you’re feeling very fancy, maybe add a splash of something like ginger liqueur, Bärenjäger, or B&B. Now, grab that novel, call your cat over, hunker down in your most comfortable chair, and start living that toddy life.