Made of the stuff of legend and shrouded in mystery, the origins of the infamous Hot Toddy are murky. Accounts by learned gentlemen, explorers, and scientists have, on occasion, described a drink akin to the warm, sweet concoction, as far back as the 1600s and as far away as India. Possibly the birthplace of the mythical magic that would evolve over time into the drink we know today, the Toddy Tree was a type of palm that produced sap, which was fermented into a wine-like libation.
If the concoction’s birthplace truly was India, then by travel or trade, it made its way to Scotland, commonly considered the land from which the modern Hot Toddy hails, and popular as far back as the 1700s. The smoky, strong flavor of the nation’s Scotch may have warranted sweetener, in order to be enjoyed by a more sensitive palate.
The key ingredients to any Hot Toddy are a warm base (such as boiling water, but tea, coffee, or cider could also be used), liquor (usually of the brown variety, but common choices are whisky, brandy, or even rum), and a sweetener (typically sugar or honey). Nowadays, it is difficult to find a toddy without a fourth staple ingredient: lemon. Centuries ago, it was most likely made at the table, with the consumer stirring preferred proportions together. Undisputed, however, is the importance of the warm base, the hot liquid used to start the toddy’s creation, and a heat-proof glass or mug is encouraged.
The words Hot Toddy may conjure up the idea of sipping a warm drink by the fire, or possibly a warm solution used to cure a winter’s cold. While toddy-like recipes do appear in the annals of yesteryear’s home remedies, the drink will not actually solve any medical ailments. And despite the majority of Texas’s somewhat mild winters, locals still like to make the most of cooler temperatures, getting cozy by a fire with a book or a loved one, with their hand around a warm mug.
A Few Suggestions for at-Home Libations
When making drinks at home, it is certainly encouraged to find ratios that suit your preference, modern mixology usually calls for a more discerning recipe. Let the following recipes act as a jumping-off point; as the festive holiday season approaches, and the mercury on the thermometer descends, learn to make a personalized hot toddy to enjoy on a cold winter’s night, or with the company of friends.
Basic Hot Toddy | Yields 1
The basic Hot Toddy recipe can serve as a place to begin in your toddy pursuits. Made with a base of hot tea, this version creates a feeling of warmth and comfort, with a little bit of sweetness to take the edge off!
- 1 cup of water
- 1 bag of tea
- 1 1/2 ounce (equivalent to one jigger or shot) liquor, usually rum, whiskey, or brandy
- 1/4 of a lemon, squeezed
- 1 tablespoon honey
Bring the water to a boil. Add the tea bag, and steep for 2 minutes, covered. Meanwhile, pour the liquor of your choosing into a mug. Squeeze in the lemon, add the honey, and stir to mix. Once the tea is ready, add it to the mug, stir, and enjoy!
Classic Scottish Toddy | Yields 2
- 4 ounces Scotch whiskey
- 6 ounces water
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1-ounce lemon juice
- 6 drops Angostura bitters
- 2 slices lemon (with inserted cloves to taste)
- 1 dash ground nutmeg to taste
While heating the water to a boil, place the honey, bitters, juice, and lemon slices (with cloves studded as desired) into the bottom of a heat-safe mug. Pour the Scotch into the mixture and stir well to dissolve the sweetener. Lastly, pour in the water once boiling, and stir to mix. Add nutmeg for garnish, to taste.
Popular Texas Toddies
If you are not comfortable tending your own bar, or just want to relax and order a Hot Toddy, several places in Texas offer unique toddies to patrons, with a local twist. Many of these toddies are seasonal, so if you are craving a warm and sweet alcoholic beverage, call ahead to make sure the weather warrants their offering.
Black Swan Saloon (Dallas): Visit the Black Swan for a toddy made with a unique whiskey: Cinnamon Candy Whiskey! The bartenders infuse the liquor with the sweet morsels for a warm, sweet, spicy, and seasonal twist on the classic toddy. 2708 Elm Street | Dallas, Texas 75226 | (214) 748-4949
The People’s Last Stand (Dallas): If you are a fan of ginger, the People’s Last Stand has a great toddy for you. Fashioned with ginger liquor, the drink smells great with a taste to match. Do not miss this must-try if you are out and about in the M streets on a cold day! 5319 E. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 210 | Dallas, Texas 75206 | (214) 370-8755
Gibson Street Bar (Austin): What screams winter more than anything with pumpkin spice? A popular seasonal flavor, this toddy is truly an original spin on traditional flavors, incorporating a theme unique to other hot beverages. Austinites, rejoice! This bar is in your neighborhood! 1109 South Lamar Boulevard | Austin, Texas 78704 | (512) 386-1345
Esquire Tavern (San Antonio): With an impressive cocktail menu to begin with, Esquire Tavern’s drink menu features a hot option; that is right, the classic hot toddy is served up here. While their libation is fairly straightforward, they do provide options for patrons to customize their drink. Choose apple brandy with allspice dram for a seasonal spin on a classic warm treat. 155 East Commerce Street | San Antonio, Texas 78205 | (210) 222-2521
Voodoo Queen (Houston): Are you a fan of coffee and coconut, with just a hint of orange? Well coffee meets toddy in the Graverobber’s 151 Coffee Grog at this local dive bar, popular with Houston bartenders. Pushing the limits of the hot toddy construct, the unique warm base helps to create an experience in a mug. 322 Milby Street | Houston, Texas 77003 | (713) 555-5666