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Issue 52 - The Hot Toddy

Whisky Magazine Issue 52
November 2005

 

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The Hot Toddy

Ian Wisniewski on a very old classic

Thriving on tradition, and offering ease of preparation, not to mention a sense of well-being (or at least an illusion of this), the hot toddy seems to have it all.

Except that a hot toddy is never ordered when you're dressed up to enjoy an evening within the glamour of a cocktail bar. Being perceived as a home remedy, a hot toddy is usually served at one specific venue: your place, and at a particular time: when you're not looking your best, wrapped in a nightgown and sneezing, with company neither required or welcome.

The ‘medicinal benefits' typically attributed to the hot toddy also link back to an original belief that whisky was a remedy for various fevers and afflictions. Moreover, whisky was also thought to promote longevity and a youthful appearance, which accounted for the original term ‘uisque beatha' (‘the water of life').

As a traditional Scottish term, with the first written reference appearing in Robert Burns' Holy Fair (1786), a ‘hot toddy' originally referred to a combination of whisky and hot water sweetened with sugar.

Being featured in the first cocktail book, The Bar-Tender's Guide published in the USA in 1862, confirmed the hot toddy's status as a classic. Author and legendary bartender Jerry Thomas's recipe for a Hot Whiskey Toddy entailed dissolving sugar in boiling water, adding some bourbon or rye whiskey, and topping up with boiling water.

This book also includes another traditional option, a cold toddy, which means dissolving some sugar...

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