The Hot Toddy: A Favorite Warm, Boozy Recipe for Winter

Hot Toddy
Alexandra Grablewski/Getty Images
  • 6 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 1 mins
  • Yield: 1 serving
Ratings (23)

Warm and toasty and just in time for winter, the Hot Toddy is a classic hot drink and it is very simple to make. The basic recipe requires only a base liquor, honey, lemon, and tea. The best part is that you can put your own spin on this iconic drink.

Brandy, rum, and whiskey all make an excellent base for the Hot Toddy and which you choose will be a matter of personal taste or whatever you have on hand. A robust bourbon is a personal preference, but it is also nice to switch it up from time to time.

The Hot Toddy is one of the easiest warm drinks you can make and it can quickly become a new favorite. This basic recipe is an ideal candidate for experimentation and you can use The Hot Toddy Collection as inspiration for creating your own personal toddy.

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Heat water in a tea kettle or the microwave.
  2. Once warm, add a tea bag and allow to steep for about 3 to 5 minutes (or according to the tea's recommended brewing time).
  3. While brewing the tea, heat your mug or an Irish coffee glass by filling it with warm water.
  4. Once the glass is warm, dump the water and coat the bottom with honey.
  5. Add the liquor and squeeze the juice from a lemon quarter.
  6. When the tea has steeped, pour it into the prepared glass and stir.

    Customize Your Hot Toddy

    The possibilities for building a great Hot Toddy are endless and few drinks are as comforting on a cold winter night than this. One of the best aspects of it is that if you do not have one of the ingredients in stock, there is always a substitute available, so let's look at each of the options.

    Choose Your Liquor

    As mentioned, brandy, whiskey, and rum are often the liquors of choice for a Hot Toddy but don't stop there. There are a number of options within those three categories, particularly in the rum and whiskey.

    Aged rums and white rums have a great flavor that really opens up when hot water is added. For the whiskey, almost any style will do. It is interesting to taste the difference between a toddy made with bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. Brandy? You really cannot go wrong with any choice. Consider a fruit brandy like apple or peach, too.

    Gin is a fantastic option and the Hot Gin Toddy is a nice relief when you feel a sore throat coming on. The heat opens up the aromatic botanicals of the gin and it is very soothing. Even tequila can be used to replace the dark liquors and create a very interesting drink.

    Don't feel like liquor tonight? Get the same soothing drink without the booze in the Hot Not Toddy.

    Pick Your Sweetener

    If your honey has crystallized in the bottle, don't worry. Almost any other drink sweetener you have in the kitchen cabinet will work.

    Time for Tea

    Some Hot Toddy drinkers will skip the tea completely. The hot water alone will bring out the toddy's flavors and create a lively drink.

    When you do use tea, feel free to experiment with your favorite types of tea. Most black and green teas mix well with the sweetness of the honey and lemon, but from there it's a personal preference and some interesting toddies are possible.

    ... And a Hint of Citrus

    Fresh lemon juice is always the best option for making a great Hot Toddy though this is one of the few instances where it is not crucial. There are times in life when ease is more important than freshness and it seems that one of those is when a quick Hot Toddy is called for.

    If you get home at night after a long, exhausting day only to find that the last lemon was used in last night's Whiskey Sour, don't let that stop you from mixing up a toddy to relax. Just pick up that bottle of lemon juice in the fridge (we all have them) and squeeze a little juice into your mug.

    Consider this an emergency and the last thing you should do is skip the citrus because it really does make the toddy a really great drink.

    How Strong is the Hot Toddy?

    The Hot Toddy is not one of those drinks that you down simply to get drunk. It is more of an experience and a way to relax, so its alcohol content may be irrelevant for the most part. However, for the curious drinker, here's a general idea of the Hot Toddy's strength.

    We need to begin by making two assumptions: that an 80-proof liquor is used and exactly one cup of hot tea is used to fill the mug (usually it is less than that). With these, we can estimate that the average toddy is a mild and comforting 6% ABV (12 proof).

    A Classic and a Modern Toddy to Try

    The Hot Toddy has been made and remade many times over the years and it's interesting to see the contrast between classic and modern recipes. These two drinks are entirely different from one another, though they're both worth tasting.

    Jerry Thomas' Whisky Punch. Toddies are an old style of drink and the legendary bartender, Jerry Thomas has a warm whiskey punch that is both simple and delightful.

    To make it: Place a single sugar cube in a pre-heated mug and add hot water until it's nearly full (leave room for the whiskey). Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add 2 ounces of either Irish or Scotch whisky and a piece of lemon peel.

    Chamomile Hot Toddy. Portland, Oregon bartender, Jacob Grier, has created a warm herbal toddy recipe that is a true delight on a chilly afternoon.

    To make it: Mix 1 1/2 ounces Jim Beam White Label Bourbon, 3/4 ounce J. Witty Chamomile Liqueur, and 2/3 ounce Meyer lemon juice in a pre-heated mug. Add 1/4 ounce honey syrup and a dash of Scrappy's Lavender Bitters and stir. Fill the mug with hot water, stir again, and garnish with a lemon peel.