Not much can fill us with more joy on a blisteringly cold day than cuddling up with a hot toddy, whether from the comfort of our couch or at our favorite neighborhood haunt. It warms us up from the inside out, instantly soothes any sign of an impending sore throat, and (bonus!) gets us nice and tipsy. What more could we ask for?
In case you’re not familiar with the hot toddy and—gasp—have never experienced it’s truly healing magic, here’s a refresher: It’s a hot cocktail, traditionally consisting of a spirit (usually whiskey, rum, or brandy) mixed with hot water or tea, honey, and lemon.
This simple, basic recipe has so much potential to be jazzed up, and we were feeling inspired to come up with new and creative ways to enjoy its warming, boozy goodness. To get some help with this, we turned to Lucinda Sterling of NYC cocktail bar Middle Branch to show us her different takes on the classic recipe.
Aside from being delicious, albeit slightly unconventional, they’re all surprisingly easy to recreate—no bartending experience necessary.
Below, find four spins on the classic hot toddy, and how to make them at home. Cheers!
The Scotch Apple
This tasty cocktail blends together two of our favorite cold-weather drinks, the hot toddy (duh) and hot apple cider, by blending scotch and applejack. “When the temperatures drop, hot apple cider is a go-to, especially when enriched by BenRiach Curiositas [whiskey's] campfire notes and the warming roundness of Laird’s Applejack,” says Sterling.
- 3/4 oz. scotch
- 3/4 oz. applejack
- 3 oz. hot apple cider
- 1/2 oz. fresh pomegranate juice
- Blackstrap molasses (to taste)
Combine all ingredients in a mug or heat-tempered glass.Photo courtesy of Middle Branch
The Luck of the Irish
This drink combines the hot toddy with another wintertime favorite, Irish coffee. "The coconut syrup lends a tropical note and amplifies Slane [whiskey]’s robust flavors that stand up well to the hot coffee," says Sterling.
- 1 1/2 oz. whiskey
- 4 oz. hot Americano-style coffee
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- Coconut syrup (to taste)
Combine all ingredients in a mug or heat-tempered glass. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon and a lemon zest.Photo courtesy of Middle Branch
The Italian Sombrero
Mezcal? In a hot toddy? Trust us, it's delicious. "Sombra mezcal’s smoky notes play well with Italicus [Rosolio di Bergamotto’s] lively bergamot and botanical flavors, which are brightened by the earl grey tea’s bergamot essence," says Sterling.
- 1 oz. mezcal
- 1/2 oz. Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 1/4 oz. orange liqueur (preferably blood orange)
- 3 to 4 oz. earl grey tea (hot and steeped to taste)
Combine all ingredients in a mug or a heat-tempered glass. Garnish with a whole vanilla bean.Photo courtesy of Middle Branch
The Frequent Flyer
This version of the classic hot toddy uses gin and has the added health benefits of ginger and turmeric. "Aviation gin, which dials back its juniper, is highly versatile and harmoniously pairs with the flavors of orange, fennel, turmeric, and ginger," says Sterling.
- 2 oz. gin
- 3/4 oz. orange-fennel syrup
- 2 to 3 oz. hot turmeric ginger tea
Combine all ingredients in a mug or heat-tempered glass. Garnish with a dried grapefruit slice dusted with black poppy seeds.Photo courtesy of Middle Branch