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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Trevor Scovel, beverage director at Wine Down, suggests a hot toddy for patrons coming in from the cold.

  • Washington Post Caribbean Breeze Toddy uses hibiscus tea.

  • Washington Post Alpine Toddy blends citrus and chamomile tea.

  • Scovel's hot toddy includes Wild Turkey, hot water, honey and an Earl Grey tea packet.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 1:00 am

Good for what ails you

Hot toddy ideal for soothing cough or trying to stay warm

M. Carrie Allan | Washington Post

Locally

When Trevor Scovel gets a cold, he will make himself a hot toddy.

The beverage director at Wine Down, 301 W. Jefferson Blvd., says he uses hot water, honey, Wild Turkey and an Earl Grey tea packet.

A hot toddy is also what he recommends to customers who come in looking to warm up from the cold.

“People come in and you can tell they are cold and we tell them we have a warm cocktail,” Scovel says. “It's the perfect season for it.”

The upscale restaurant and bar in downtown Fort Wayne has several hot cocktails on its menu, says Scovel, who adds that all a hot toddy consists of is hot tea, spirits and booze.

There is a cocktail that includes scotch, honey and Earl Grey tea, or if you really want something warm, Scovel says there is the Blue Blazer, in which the whiskey is lit on fire.

At Henry's on West Main Street, bartender Benjamin Murphy says requests for the drink “definitely upticks this time of year.”

“I've had some people come in when feeling under the weather” to order a hot toddy, Murphy says.

His recipe usually includes squeezing lemon juice into a glass mug, 2 ounces of bourbon, hot water and served with a tea bag, honey and a couple of lemon slices on the side.

– Terri Richardson,

The Journal Gazette

It's January, and all around me in the warren of cubicles, I can hear the human groundhogs wheezing. Sneeze. Hack, hack, hack. Sniffle, sniffle.

I try to keep my head down, out of the germ jet stream. I think of the bottle of hand sanitizer I keep in a drawer, and I fantasize about sending it around via the internal mail system.

Also, I think about hot toddies, which for centuries have served as a home remedy for the winter crud. They're popping up on cocktail menus everywhere right now, mostly because of the ridiculous cold. Stepping into a warmly lit place to wrap one's hands around a steaming mug, one that wafts aromas of booze and lemon and clove into your face, feels great – once, of course, the feeling has returned to your face.

The source of the toddy's name is arguable; some think it came from Anglicizing the Indian “tari,” a fermented palm wine. But an 1871 article in the New York Times argues no: The “toddy” is so named for Tod's Well, which once supplied water to much of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, whose inhabitants are no strangers to the art of mixing whiskey and water.

Like most classic quaffs, the toddy has crashed into the craft cocktail movement, so now, beyond many excellent traditional versions, you can find the toddy template being executed with spirits from aquavit to slivovitz to mescal, and all sorts of citrus and sweeteners. I'm personally a big fan of using tea in toddies, which add new flavors to the palette; in the case of the Caribbean Breeze Toddy, tart hibiscus tea stands in for lemon juice.

But the classic toddy is as simple as a spec gets: a couple of ounces of spirit topped with boiling water, a spoonful of honey, a wheel of citrus and a bit of spice. The better variations of the classic – which you should make when you're healthy and just trying to warm up – lean on good aged spirits. I'm talking overproof, funky aged rums, brandies with oomph, feisty, smoky Islay whiskeys, any spirits that get mellowed out by the toddy's softening haze of honey, lemon and steam.

That's the healthy person's classic toddy. If you're attempting to use the toddy as a cold treatment, when you're sick and can't smell or taste anything, don't waste your good booze. In such moments, the toddy is a good place to bury nominal whiskeys, ones you don't want to drink much of neat.

I may not be telling you anything you don't already know about the hot toddy, the specifics of which seem to get passed along in families more often than your average cocktail spec. Many people, after all, have an older relative who sees cold symptoms in their loved ones and leaps to provide trusted home remedies. Some may even have a lovely Scottish brogue, and an ancient calico cat.

Caribbean Breeze Toddy

This winter warmer replaces the citrus in a classic hot toddy with hibiscus tea, which is tart, floral and a deep, cheery red.

We used Tazo brand Passion Tea (a blend of hibiscus and other botanicals), but you can substitute other hibiscus teas; you should be able to find one at any grocery store with a decent tea selection.

3 dashes Angostura bitters

3/4 ounce dark rum, such as Plantation

3/4 ounce ginger liqueur

1 hibiscus tea bag or sachet (see headnote)

4 to 5 ounces boiling water

Lemon wheel pierced with whole cloves, for garnish

Combine the bitters, rum and ginger liqueur in a teacup or small mug. Add the tea bag, then pour in the boiling water. Let the drink steep for 4 to 5 minutes, then discard the tea bag. Add the clove-studded lemon wheel and serve. Makes 1 serving.

Alpine Toddy

The liqueur Chartreuse evolved out of a complex recipe – involving hundreds of secret botanicals – for an “elixir of long life” given to the Carthusian order of monks in 1605. This toddy blends the milder, sweeter yellow variation of the liqueur with citrus and chamomile tea.

2 dashes orange bitters

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 ounce yellow Chartreuse

1 chamomile tea bag or sachet

4 to 5 ounces boiling water

Lemon wheel pierced with whole cloves, for garnish

Combine the bitters, lemon juice and Chartreuse in a teacup or small mug. Add the tea bag, then pour in the boiling water. Let the drink steep for 4 to 5 minutes, then discard the tea bag. Add the clove-studded lemon wheel and serve. Makes 1 serving.