Drink of the Week: The Hot Toddy

The Hot ToddyHave you ever found yourself wondering exactly what a hot toddy is? I know I have. I’ve had them in bars maybe once or twice at most and occasionally messed around with heating up some whiskey and water with a little sugar or something else, but I’ve never quite had a handle on what makes a toddy a toddy. The funny part is that after working with them a bit more earnestly the last week or so, I’m still wondering what a hot toddy is.

The problem is that every recipe I’ve found seems to bear relatively little relation to every other recipe, to the point where I’ve determined that there is no baseline recipe for hot toddies there way there might be for other cocktails. Beyond involving hot water, sweetener, and some form of hard liquor that’s usually is whiskey but could also be brandy or rum, there’s nothing very much in common between any two recipes, though a lemon usually comes into play and some people, who may tend to be from the U.K. or British commonwealth countries, use tea instead of hot water. Figuring out the “classic” hot toddy seems to be a fool’s errand.

Therefore, I’m presenting, instead, my own personal hot toddy. Of the various combinations of boiling water, whiskey, and sugar that I’ve experimented with this week, this is the one that’s worked out the best for me.

The Hot Toddy

4 ounces boiling water
1.5 ounces bourbon or Scotch whiskey
2 teaspoons of sugar, preferably brown
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice or lemon slice or peel
1 cinnamon stick as optional garnish.

Place sugar in a small coffee or tea cup. Pour in boiling water and stir to dissolve sugar. Add lemon juice — or don’t and substitute a very thin lemon slice garnish with your cinnamon stick. Based on personal preference feel free to increase or eschew the juice entirely. Add your booze, stir, and sip. (If you have a heat sensitive like me, don’t worry. The room temperature booze should cool the drink down to a reasonably drinkable temperature.)

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Feel free to experiment with your favorite brandy, rum, or another type of whiskey. The sweetness of bourbon seems to appeal to me the most here, though using a decent single malt scotch was also very nice. You can boost the booze up to 2 ounces if you want or maybe reduce the water though it will get cold faster. I should add I was using Old Fitzgerald’s 100 proof bourbon, but I suspect 1.5 ounces of 80 proof Jim Beam or what have you would be good and potent enough for most people with 4 ounces of water.

Just watch the lemon juice and/or lemon slice as a little can go a long way. If you go the lemon slice route and want to warm up your drink, remove the lemon before nuking it in the microwave. On that road lies nastiness.

Toddies are nice. It’s actually fairly hard to mess up whiskey, a bit of sugar, and some water and wonderful for warming up on a cold night.  You might find you don’t need that sweater or sweatshirt after consuming one of these.

On the other hand, the docs tell us that, contrary to what some of us have been told, it’s really not the absolute best thing if you’re actually sick, especially with a fever. The dehydrating diuretic properties of alcohol makes momma’s chicken soup better for cold of flu sufferers, leaving aside the whole issue of drug interactions. (For starters, booze and anything containing Tylenol/Acetaminophen should not really mix in your body. It’s a liver thing.) On the other hand, if you’re simply sick from worry or stress on a cold winter evening, there is no simpler remedy.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Sidecar

Sidecar cocktailAllegedly dating back to the days of World War I and Papa Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris (that would be Harry’s, of course) and apparently invented either by or for a motorcycling serviceman with a sidecar on his vehicle, this is a drink that is being revived more and more often these days. As with most of the other classic cocktails, there is a pretty huge amount of variation in the proportions of what boils down to being a delightfully simple drink. However, after looking at a number of recipes from different sources, there are two basic variations.

The Sidecar (modern day)

2 ounces cognac or brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 – 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake very vigorously, and pour into a pre-chilled glass. Some bartenders garnish with a lemon twist. Others rim the glass with sugar by wetting the edge of the glass with lemon juice and placing the glass on plate of bowl of sugar. However, serving this drink garnish free in simply a chilled glass will do just fine.

Now, some recipes from less reputable sources might also suggest you could use any brand of triple sec — Cointreau is the relatively pricey “original” triple sec and is drier than the garden variety. After experimenting all week with a cut rate version using a decent but basic brand of the orange liqueur, I’m here to tell you that simply doesn’t work in the above recipe. Even with an entire ounce of lemon, it was way too insipidly sweet if I used the smaller amount of lemon juice for me, and I have more of a sweet tooth than most hardcore cocktail aficionados. Even with more of the super tart juice, however, the darn thing simply failed to come together, which I guess is why everybody in the booze world I respect implies it’s either Cointreau or the highway here.

However, there is an older version of the beverage which is an entirely different story and great news for us impoverished cocktail hounds

The Sidecar (original)

1 ounce brandy or Cognac
1 ounce Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Again, this is prepared by simply shaking very vigorously and lengthily and pouring into a chilled martini glass.

While this is a bit less stiff than the drink above and in theory should be more sickeningly sweet, the cocktail alchemy seems to be entirely different and the arguably excessive sweetness of the triple sec and the tartness of the lemon juice counterbalance each other quite beautifully with the brandy acting as an effective moderator. I can’t wait to try this and the above recipe with Cointreau. Maybe somebody will send me a free bottle…

As for brandy vs. Cognac, I’ve had Cognacs that were not as good as the inexpensive French brandy (Raynal) I’ve had great luck with on other drinks, but just be aware that Cognac is simply a more expensive type of grape brandy made in a specific part of France. If anyone wants to send me some Cognac, they’re naturally welcome as well.

  

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