It's Hot Toddy Time
It’s not surprising that National Hot Toddy day falls when it does. For those living in four-season climates, January can be the coldest (not to mention snowiest) month of the year. Knowing that the bustling and much-anticipated holiday season is over can give anyone a case of the doldrums. And colds and the flu seem to have everyone sniffling, sneezing and coughing. The surefire antidote? Inspired riffs on the hot toddy that are sure to warm up guests and brighten spirits.
The biggest tip for toddies, according to James Nelson, is not to stray too far from the original. “There is a reason the hot toddy has been around for so many years,” says the lead bartender at Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington, D.C. “It’s a great drink in its original form.” He says not be be afraid to put your own stamp on it though. Nelson’s Maple Bourbon Toddy ($13) mixes Maker’s Mark Bourbon with maple syrup, English Breakfast Tea and charred cedar bitters, garnished with a maple lollipop. His Apple Toddy ($13) uses Calvados, the apple brandy from France’s Normandy region, mixed with apple cinnamon spice syrup, lemon juice and tea. He generally eschews spicy ingredients in tea-based toddies, which can increase the tea’s astringency and the spicy rather than soothe the tongue.
However, Angel Cervantes, head bartender at The Rye Bar at The Capella Hotel in Washington, D.C., is a fan of using spices in toddies, including shaved ginger, Asian basil, turmeric, allspice, clove, star anise, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns. The Rye Ginger Toddy is served to Capella Hotel guests upon check-in this winter; it combines Redemption Rye with warm Darjeeling Tea, rosemary simple syrup, lemon juice and grated fresh ginger, garnished with a lemon wheel and a sprig of rose. Cervantes prefers to use liquid sweeteners—rather than granulated, raw or brown sugar—and suggests warming them up first before adding them to the drink so as not to inadvertently lower the cocktail’s temperature. At The Rye Bar’s monthly cocktail classes, Cervantes doles out toddy tips. “Get a pan, heat the water slowly and think about the flavors and spices you enjoy,” he counsels. “Taste the ingredients until you find a combination you truly enjoy, and add it to your liquor.”
Toddies can serve as medicine alternative, elixirs for the season’s sniffles. Native Americans have traditionally uses the bitter, medicinal-tasting berries from the wintergreen shrub, called spiceberries, to alleviate colds and coughs. At Cure in Pittsburgh, PA, bartender Colin Anderson at makes a spiceberry tincture, which he uses in his Toddy ($10), along with Armagnac, Amer, raw apple and honey. "Spiceberry is similar in flavor to black pepper, says Anderson. “It lends what you would expect: a medicinal and peppery finish." Since it’s typically harvested during apple season, he paired it in the toddy with apple for historical and cultural accuracy.
Speaking of apple, The San Francisco Mead Company recently introduced its third flavor, Apple Pie Mead ($29.99,) which works well in warm winter cocktails. Sulfite- and gluten-free, it’s made with raw Mendocino forest honey, freshly-pressed organic Sonoma County apples and organic spices. “[It] easily replaces apple cider in various toddy recipes,” notes Oron Benary, owner and meadmaker. “The spices we use, cinnamon clove and nutmeg, lend to pairing well with Bourbons and whiskeys associated with hot toddy recipes.” When serving toddies, Benary recommends selecting glassware that retains heat, while not getting too hot to handle; and a hot water dispenser will mixing toddies much more efficient than a kettle for busy bars.
There is no doubt about it, a toddy is just the ticket this time of year. “It’s warm and comforting on a cold winter day,” muses Nelson. “Just sticking your face near the mug warms you and makes you feel cozy.”
Maple Bourbon Toddy
1 ½ oz. Maker’s Mark Bourbon
In an Irish coffee mug, add the Maker’s Mark, maple syrup and tea. Stir to combine, add 2 dashes of bitters, and garnish with the lollipop.
Rye Ginger Toddy
3 oz. warm Darjeeling Tea
Combine all ingredients except garnish and heat until warm. Strain it into a warmed footed mug, and garnish with a lemon wheel and rose petal.
Apple Pie Toddy
½ tsp fresh ginger, peeled
Muddle ginger in a warmed, footed glass. Squeeze the juice from the citrus fruits, add the spirits and hot water, and stir to combine. Garnish with an orange wheel studded with cloves.