A winter staple around the world, Hot Toddy even has a day — 11 January — dedicated to its celebration. As with many drinks, Hot Toddy has a contentious origin. According to some accounts, the roots of this drink can be traced back to British-controlled India. Back in the 1610s, the Hindi expression "taddy" denoted a drink crafted from the fermented sap of palm trees. Fast forward to 1786, and this term was formally documented and elucidated as a beverage concocted with alcoholic spirits, hot water, sugar, and spices.
Since the British were great at conquering lands and claiming everything as theirs, they seamlessly snagged Toddy from India and only gave it a British makeover. Who wouldn't want hot water thrown into their precious Scotch whisky on those bone-chilling days in northern England and Scotland? And thanks to their exotic trade routes with India, spices became the norm. Because clearly, hot water and whisky were just not cutting it anymore for these high-brow pubs.
Some tales suggest that 18th-century Scottish doctors were the true pioneers, prescribing this delightful brew as a remedy. The story goes that they added sweeteners and spices to cloak the bold flavour of raw Scotch, all in the noble pursuit of easing the woes of those poor souls plagued by the common cold, brewing a "sweeter-tasting alternative for ladies", if you will. Evidently, women couldn't possibly handle the full force of that robust smokiness as well as their male counterparts.
Then, there's the tale of a certain Irish doctor, Robert Bentley Todd, prescribing hot brandy, canella (white cinnamon), and sugar water as a ‘cure-all’ to patients like some kind of beverage alchemist.
In the mid-19th century, hot toddy was hailed as the “superhero of sniffles and the champion of chills!” Magazines brimming with health columns advised those suffering from the common cold to skip the call to the doctor, then move on to a delightful plan of excessive feeding and finally, the pièce de résistance – a comforting hot toddy.
In its classic rendition, the hot toddy is elegantly served in a glass. The composition is straightforward: a shot of preferably malt whisky, a teaspoon of honey for sweetness, and a splash of fresh lemon for that sharp tang. The pièce de résistance? Boiling water poured delicately over a silver spoon to safeguard the glass from cracking. It's simplicity in a glass, a harmonious blend of whisky warmth, honeyed sweetness, and a citrusy kick.
For those seeking to elevate the drink even more, spices can be introduced based on individual preferences. Fresh ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon sticks are some of the options for spicing up the drink. However, introducing too many spices might veer the concoction into the realm of punch, much to the chagrin of purists who prefer their toddy unadulterated.
Fill a mug with boiling water and let stand for a minute or two to warm.
Meanwhile, stick the cloves into the lemon peel or wheel and set aside.
Empty the mug and fill it about halfway with fresh boiling water.
Add the prepared lemon peel or wheel and stir.
Add the lemon juice and whisky or brandy and stir again. Serve in a Irish mug.