Last week I wrote about the Hot Buttered Rum, and how it's a winter drink for when you're feeling festive (and when you've planned far enough ahead of time and made the essential spiced rum batter). Now that we're nearing the dead of winter, you may be interested in something more simple-- a drink that doesn't require much advanced preparation. For these moments, the Hot Toddy shines (and warms) like no other.
Technically speaking, a toddy is a category of drinks rather than a specific recipe and the Hot Toddy is simply, well, the hot version of a regular toddy. In the old days a tavern keeper would heat the drink by taking a hot metal poker from the fire and plunge it into the pot that contained the mixture. So yes, originally, in less frigid times toddies were served at room temperature except for the very rare instance when ice was handy (we're talking about 18th century and prior).
The name of the drink comes from the term 'toddy stick,' which was the big wooden baton-like tool the barkeep would use to break up sugar, as well as muddle any spice and everything nice, and even crack ice, when it became a commonly used item. Sugar of course had to be broken up because during colonial times it came in hard loaves that needed to be chipped into smaller usable pieces. The luxury of nicely granulated sugar that we find in the stores today was not to be had back then.
Understanding the toddy as a category, or better yet a concept, will enable you to use its template as a base for creating something uniquely your own, simplifying (or complicating) it as you see fit. There is no universally recognized toddy recipe, yet all good toddies will have the same components: a base spirit (traditionally whiskey but any brown--i.e. oak-aged--spirit will do, with genever being the allowable exception); a sweetening agent (sugar, honey, whatever); a diluting agent (hot water, tea, cider); and lemon juice for a necessary acidic bump to bring all the flavors in balance. Beyond that you can muddle lemon or other citrus peels, add cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, oregano-- ok maybe we're getting carried away now.
Below are two recipes that exemplify this approach. The first is a basic toddy that any tavern with the ability to boil water should be able to turn out, and the other is a Jasmine Toddy (pictured above) that's a touch more complex but well worth it for the final product it yields.
1 oz whiskey
1 oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water pre-diluted for easy mixing)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
boiling water (about 3-4 oz depending on glass size)
Pour the honey syrup, lemon juice, and whiskey in a heated hot toddy glass or mug and stir to dissolve. Top with boiling water and enjoy. If you choose to use straight undiluted honey, only use half the suggested amount.
Just as it's important to pre-chill a glass when making a cold drink, it 's a good idea to pre-heat your glass when making a hot one. You can do this by simply pouring boiling water in your glass and letting it sit until you get the rest of your ingredients together, then pouring it out once you're ready to assemble the drink. And because the water (or other diluting agent) is the only hot element of this drink, I make sure it's boiling (as opposed to just being hot) when I add it, otherwise the rest of the ingredients will quickly bring down the temperature, which would yield a Tepid Toddy, not a Hot Toddy.
1/2 oz Yamazaki 12 Yr
1/2 oz Rhum Barbancourt 4 Yr (or other lightly aged rhum agricole)
1 oz honey syrup
1/2 oz variegated pink lemon juice (just use regular lemon juice; I'm being fancy-schmancy cuz that's what was in my CSA this week)
Fresh brewed jasmine green tea (approx 3-4 oz; Ahmad Tea makes a pretty good one)
half lemon wheel studded with 3 cloves
Pour the honey syrup, lemon juice, and spirits in a heated glass and stir to dissolve. Add the clove-studded lemon. Pour in the jasmine green tea and enjoy.
The floral nose and mildly sweet palate of the Yamazaki Japanese whisky makes it a great pairing with the lightly oaked yet still grassy undertone of the Haitian rum, and together provide a nice base of complexity and body despite the relatively low amount of liquor in the drink.
I used variegated pink lemons simply because I had them on hand, and aside from the aesthetically pleasing aspect of the pink lemons, they're also a bit more tart and have a stronger flavor than their yellow cousins. But if I didn't have them I'd just use regular lemons because there's no sense in venturing back into the cold to track them down. That would certainly defeat the entire purpose of this enterprise.
You'll notice that both toddy recipes adhere to a similar formula, and both check off the necessary components, yet they vary widely in flavor profile. That's the beauty of a good hot toddy, because it's made of stuff almost everyone either has in stock or can easily attain. If you don't have whiskey you can use aged rum; if you don't have honey you can use sugar; if you don't have... you get the point.
Winter ain't got nothin' on you now kid!
*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!