In simplest terms, this is essentially how you’d prepare a hot toddy at home:
- Add liquor, lemon juice, sweetener and spices to a mug.
- Add hot water to the mug and stir to combine and dissolve the sweetener.
- Garnish and enjoy.
There are endless variations on the drink that you can experiment with. First, what liquor should you use? Whiskey is the universal go-to, although the hot toddy is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of spirits. Scotch, rum (aged or spiced) and brandy are all viable options, but we’re partial to bourbon, due to its oaky flavor and vanilla-caramel undertones.
Once you choose one, determine what flavors you’d like to pair with it. First, decide if you’d like to use plain hot water or brewed tea. Black and green teas offer a caffeine boost and more flavor, but you can go the spiced or herbal route if you’d prefer. Next, choose your spices. Cloves, star anise and cinnamon are traditional winter accompaniments. Fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme and mint, can give the drink a gourmet look and nuanced flavor that’s just right for the holidays.
The addition of lemon is nonnegotiable in our book, since its acidity both soothes the throat and tames the drink’s booziness, but you could use lime or orange if you’d prefer. As for a sweetener, honey is most common, but you could go the route of agave, maple syrup or simple syrup instead.
Whatever you use, you’ll want to preheat your mug with hot water, much like chilling a martini glass before pouring the libation in. Simply fill your mug with hot water while you prepare the drink components, then pour it out after a few minutes and make the hot toddy. This ensures that your concoction will stay warm as long as possible.