How to Master the Hot Toddy at Home
We’ve got three new recipes to make a hot toddy from across the West, because alcoholic beverages just taste better served warm during the winter.
The hot toddy has long been a drink that people swear by when sick or looking to indulge at winter lodges. Maybe it’s just me, but when it comes time to make a hot toddy at home, it never tastes quite as heart-warming as it does when made behind a bar. To get to the root of why my toddies don’t come out as ideal as those made by the masters, I set out to get tips, tricks, and new recipes to make hot toddies at home from Western mixers and shakers.
Hot toddies go by different names depending on where you’re sipping them. In Ireland, they’re referred to as a hot whiskey, and when made with rum they’re called a grog. However you want to refer to them, when it starts to get chilly out or you have a tickle in your throat, the combination of liquor, honey, lemon, and hot water is undeniably alluring.
In Oregon, one of the colder parts of the West, Produce Row Café has a section of its cocktail menu dedicated to warm drinks. Of the three offered, two are toddies. We’ve not only got the recipes for both but also insight as to the ins and outs of both variations from the bar manager, Morgan Evans.
The two toddies on the cafe’s fall menu are a pear brandy toddy, made with locally distilled brandy with a Bartlett pear base, and an Earl Grey toddy made with a tea-infused syrup for an added hint of sweetness. “The Earl Grey toddy is highlighting the tea, and while both are aromatic you’ll get more fruit flavors with the pear brandy toddy,” Evans says. Both toddies lean into the traditional ways of the cocktail by keeping it simple with a base of hot water and liquor and the addition of sweetener and lemon juice.
“We try to keep our cocktail program pretty simple and straightforward by highlighting classic cocktails with a Northwest spin,” Evans adds. “So by focusing on high-quality ingredients, we have the freedom to keep our recipes simple.”
One of the main ingredients in the pear toddy is a pear-infused brandy made by a local distillery. “We happen to be less than a mile away from New Deal Distillery which has a pear brandy that features Hood River Bartlett pears so [it’s] local produce being used at a local distillery,” says Evans.
If you can’t get your hands on New Deal’s pear brandy, Evans suggests infusing your own liquors or syrups at home by “letting the fruit sit in the liquor and straining it out later on.” Another suggestion to enhance the sweetness of your toddy is to add infused syrups. In the Earl Grey toddy, Produce Row Café uses a spiced honey syrup that is super simple to make. According to Evans, the process is as easy as mixing honey, cloves, cinnamon, or whatever spices interest you with water and simmering the mixture until it is reduced by half and thickened. You can store the syrup in the fridge and add a half-ounce or so to your toddy or tea whenever you’re looking for a little added sweetness.
For a more modern take on the toddy, we spoke with Taka Iida, founder of Takasan, a curated collection of sakes and Japanese-inspired wines that can be delivered to your door. Hot toddies made with sake might not be something you see on many menus, but they are an easy pairing when you consider the fact that some sakes are traditionally served hot already.
In his hot toddy recipe, Iida combines a junmai sake, made to be served warm, with hot water and Demerara sugar. He then firmly studs a lemon wedge with a few whole cloves and floats that and a cinnamon stick in the glass before serving. The sake has notes of melon, blackberry, and florals to help make “a lighter toddy and something that is easy to drink and comforting,” according to Iida.
“A few things amp up the coziness, like baking spices and brown sugar,” Iida says. “Similarly, the oils in a lemon peel and a bit of lemon juice lift up the warm flavors.” So, drop those lemon wedges and cinnamon sticks into the mug with your drink for a boost of flavor and aromatics.
Behind the bar at Produce Row Café, Evans says the staff likes to “pre-warm the glass so it stays hot and toasty,” which can be done at home by swirling some hot water around in the mug for a few moments before adding the contents of your cocktail.
Now that you’ve got some tips and tricks from experts, find three recipes for hot toddies below to keep you warm all winter.