History of the Hot Toddy

Ask the average person if they’ve ever heard of a Hot Toddy, and they’re likely to say they have. Ask them what a Hot Toddy is, and you may get a variety of answers. The cocktail doesn’t have a standard recipe. It needs to contain some type of liquor; a sweetener, such as honey or sugar; a warm base like coffee, tea, hot water or apple cider; and usually, lemon. The most common Hot Toddy recipe consists of bourbon, honey, hot water and lemon.

The cocktail’s origins are unknown, but we do know that it is an old drink, believed to have been invented in Scotland in the 1700s. The country’s staple liquor, Scotch, had a harsh smoky flavor that women were not fond of. The Hot Toddy may have been designed as a sweeter-tasting alternative for ladies.

The Hot Toddy’s name is the biggest mystery. No one knows for certain where it came from, but there are two popular theories.

In 1781, poet Allan Ramsay published a poem called “The Morning Interview” that mentions Todian Spring. This spring, also called Tod’s Well, was the main water supply to Edinburgh, Scotland, so the Hot Toddy may have been named after it. Ramsay’s poem refers to Todian Spring water being used for a tea party. Since Todian Spring existed anyway, regardless of Ramsay invoking its name in his poetry, it is unclear why Ramsay is given credit for the name of the Hot Toddy cocktail by those who adhere to this theory about its naming.

Another theory states that since Great Britain was involved in trade with India at the time the Hot Toddy was invented, the cocktail may have been named for toddy, an Indian drink made from palm tree sap. Whether or not this is true, one thing is for certain: Palm tree sap is not a usual ingredient in a Hot Toddy.

The name itself can vary, being spelled “Totty” or “Tottie” at times, though these spellings are uncommon, and some would say, simply wrong. There are no options when it comes to the hotness of the Hot Toddy, as it is one of the most popular cold-weather drinks, even more popular in ski lodges than in pubs. A Hot Toddy ideally should be made and enjoyed at home, with a good book or a good friend.

Hot Toddy Recipe

50ml Whiskey
25 ml Lemon Juice
5 Cloves
2 tsp Honey

Skewer the cloves into 2 thin lemon slices and add to a heat proof glass. Add the whiskey, lemon juice and honey. Top up with boiling water and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Give it a quick stir and serve immediately

Cocktails mentioned in this post

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