Whether you’ve got a cold, cough, or just a case of the winter blues, a Hot Toddy will wrap around you like a warm blanket and soothe your weary bones. Here’s the classic recipe for a delicious hot cocktail you can make all season long.
If a Hot Toddy isn't your thing, but you still want something to warm you up, try my Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider, an Irish Coffee, or Mexican Christmas Punch. See the rest of my drink recipes here.
An easy Hot Toddy recipe is absolutely the kind of thing you need in your back pocket during the winter months. Especially when everyone’s sniffling and coughing and come to think of it, you don’t feel all that great yourself.
Healthy or ill, there’s just something about a hot alcoholic drink and an early-to-bed evening. This restorative concoction of hot water, bourbon, lemon juice, and spices is easy to whip up. And it's completely adaptable with whatever you have on hand.
Making Hot Toddy for a houseful of invalids? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Hot Toddy definition:
One of the tastiest (and oldest) hot cocktails, a hot toddy recipe first appears in literature in the late 1700s. In Ireland, it’s known as “hot whiskey.” In the 1800s, Englishman Robert Bentley Todd would often prescribe a hot brandy drink mixed with water, sugar, and spices...hence "Toddy." No matter what the real Hot Toddy origin, people have relied on the curative powers of this cocktail for a long, long time!
Does Hot Toddy help a cold?
In her book “How to Drink,” Victoria Moore describes hot toddy benefits as “the vitamin C for health, the honey to soothe, the alcohol to numb.” Pretty accurate, dontcha think?
There is conflicting data on whether or not a hot toddy does anything, scientifically speaking, for a sore throat, cough, or flu. It’s not medicine, but it's been relied on as a calming sleep aid and a reliever of mild cold symptoms. People usually make a hot toddy for cough, sore throats, and headaches.
You certainly don’t have to be sick to make a hot toddy, though. It’s just as delicious as a nightcap when you’re healthy as a horse.
Hot Toddy ingredients:
What’s a hot toddy made of? That all depends on what you like, or who’s making it. You can change up the hot toddy ingredients for colds (ginger, lemon, cinnamon, whiskey), or just what sounds good after a long day.
- Spirits. Bourbon, whiskey, rum (dark rum, too) Fireball, vodka, even tequila. You can make a Hot Toddy with just about any strong alcohol. Lots of people love their hot toddy brandy, too, so don’t limit yourself.
(A Grand Marnier hot toddy would be amazing if you like oranges.) Basically, pick one alcohol that you enjoy the taste of, and go from there.
- Hot water. Or brewed hot tea.
- Something sweet. Sugar, honey, golden syrup, agave nectar, anything to sweeten up the booze and make it sippable.
- Citrus. Lemon or lime juice, or even just citrus peel. For a little vitamin C, just like Ms. Moore says.
- Spices. You can add a few spices of your choosing: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, a chunk of fresh ginger root, etc. If you don't have a cinnamon stick, you can make a Hot Toddy with tea, particularly cinnamon or herbal tea.
The best bourbon for Hot Toddy:
The bourbon you actually have on hand is truly the best one to use. You can get as fancy as you like, however: Evan Walker, Jack Daniels, Bulleit, Makers Mark, you name it.
How to make a Hot Toddy:
- First, heat some water in a kettle. While the water is heating up, pour 1 ounce bourbon (or other alcohol, some honey, and lemon juice into a mug. (Bonus points for pre-warming the mug with some hot water!)
- Then top the mug off with hot water. Next, add the cinnamon stick and give everything a stir to dissolve the honey.
- Garnish as you please, and serve immediately.
Hot Toddy garnish ideas:
This pretty cocktail looks even better with a thoughtful garnish. Try one of these.
- A thinly cut wheel of lemon dotted with a few cloves.
- An orange peel.
- A cinnamon stick.
- Grated nutmeg.
- Candied ginger.
How to make Non-alcoholic Hot Toddy:
Hot Toddy without alcohol, coming up! Here’s some ideas.
- Apple cider hot toddy. Apple cider or apple juice, spices, and lemon.
- Cranberry juice hot toddy. Mix together a little cranberry juice with or without hot water and spice it up.
- Tea toddy. Hot tea that's sweetened and spiced is hard to resist for anyone.
Hot Toddy Recipe
- 2 ounces bourbon (1/4 cup, see notes)
- 2 tablespoons honey or agave
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- lemon slices for garnish
- ground nutmeg for garnish, optional (see notes)
- In a 6 ounce mug, combine bourbon, honey and lemon juice. Top with hot water.
- Add cinnamon stick and stir until honey is dissolved. Garnish with a slice of lemon and grated nutmeg if desired.
- You can substitute the bourbon with whiskey, brandy, rum, or even fireball (omit the lemon juice if using fireball).
- For the best flavor, grate fresh whole nutmeg.