As Dean Martin sang it best, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” And with the days so short, snowy and cold, this is not the time of year for gin and tonics or pink Cadillac margaritas. Instead, think roaring fire after hitting the slopes, shoveling the driveway or slogging through unplowed streets. Needed this time of year is something toasty and warm, with the added kick of the dark spirits, so to speak — whiskey, bourbon, dark rum, brandy and such.
I will admit that there is a lot to be said for the most recent and cutting-edge cocktail lounge offerings—winter drinks that can involve any range of ingredients, glassware and preparation techniques. And while these possibilities are numerous and capable of being intense masterpieces of mixology, this is when I must stand up in defense of something considered passé — your father’s drink, so to speak.
The hot toddy — a moniker often given to any heated substance with an added alcoholic kick — is actually a concoction with a specific recipe and method. On top of that, it is also brilliant in its simplicity, versatile beyond belief and, most importantly, extremely fitting this time of year.
Hot Toddy Recipe
As less is most often more, all you need are your everyday coffee mugs, some booze, honey, lemons, perhaps cloves and a tea kettle at the ready. These are items you probably already have in your home; no guava extract or chipotle-pomegranate infusion necessary. As for a base recipe that can be adapted to your preferences, here is the fundamental approach:
Put 2-1/2 ounces alcohol and 1 ounce honey in a coffee mug. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the top and top off with boiling water. Stir well to dissolve the honey and garnish with a clove-studded lemon slice.
While this is indeed simple, its versatility is also part of the charm. All of the aforementioned dark spirits are applicable here, and any of these can be equally successful in this recipe, depending on the preference of the drinker. With mugs at the ready, you can tailor your hot toddy for anybody wishing to imbibe, and with very little extra effort. This is especially so if you keep a well-stocked liquor cabinet. In fact, you may have quite an assortment of bottles leftover from the holidays. A casual hot toddy get-together is the perfect thing in this regard as well.
From Canadian whiskey to Cognac, go for it. It should also be mentioned that having an array of tea bags at your disposal is another great way to easily add additional interesting flavors.
What could be more fitting? With the stressful holidays and major get-togethers behind us, this is the answer to a frigid time of year when you are in for the evening and just want to relax. Even if you are bogged down with a winter cold, the hot toddy can actually bring good from a bad situation. I realize I cannot profess this as a magical cure-all, but if you are ailing, it sure might just improve your outlook and probably that of those around you.
Kick back, light the fire and give yourself a dose of in-home winter comfort at its best. Is this not the time to sip something easy and adaptable, that hits the spot perfectly? A word of caution, however: hot toddy’s are deceptively tasty, so watch out. As the old saying goes—and it could have been Dino during his Rat Pack days who said it—“Two is too many, three is not enough.”
Gus Magann is a partner at Vine Lore, Inc. a Utah wine and spirits brokerage.
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