The toddy is bartending at its most basic: whiskey, sugar, and lemon—that’s it—mixed and then topped with scalding water. “It’s a pretty straightforward template,” says Jillian Vose, beverage director at New York’s Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, a World’s Best Bar winner rightly famous for its boozy cold-weather menu. How you improve on the formula, down to the optional cinnamon stick garnish, is largely up to you. “It’s not every day you have a hot drink,” Vose says. “It soothes the throat, warms the soul.” Think of it as cocktail medicine. Here are three variations for you and your closest crew.
But First, Some Toddy Tips
A New Standard
The Dead Rabbit features Irish whiskey in its fanciful adaptation of a recipe first published in 1862 in Jerry Thomas’s The Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon Vivant’s Companion. The lemon “sherbet” makes enough for several drinks.
2 oz Powers Signature Irish Whiskey
½ oz honey syrup (2 parts honey dissolved in 1 part hot water)
½ oz lemon sherbet
1 dash Angostura bitters
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Combine whiskey, honey syrup, and sherbet in a heatproof glass or mug. Stir in 3 oz hot water, or to taste. Garnish with nutmeg.
Lemon Sherbet: In a jam jar or other lidded container, combine the peels of 4 lemons with ½ cup sugar. Let sit for a few hours, until sugar is damp. Add ½ cup fresh lemon juice and shake until sugar dissolves. Discard peels.
A Little Bittersweet
Amaro and orange bitters supply plenty of astringency without added citrus for an aged rum drink called Winter in the Caribbean. Bar manager Lindsay Matteson of Seattle’s the Walrus and the Carpenter says using cognac, Scotch, or aged genever also works well.
1 ½ oz aged rum
½ oz Averna or another medium-bittered amaro
1 tsp honey
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir all ingredients in a toddy glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a lemon twist.
Just Add Tea
Kenta Goto of New York’s Bar Goto offers a further variation of this Yuzu Hot Toddy by trading brandy for shochu and a small measure of gin.
1 ½ oz Laird’s Apple Brandy
2 oz brewed lemon-ginger tea
⅔ oz honey syrup (recipe above)
½ oz lemon juice
1 tsp yuzu marmalade (optional)
Stir brandy, tea, honey syrup, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat, just until hot. Pour into a teacup. Serve yuzu marmalade on the side for additional DIY sweetness.
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