You won’t find a hot toddy at an elegant holiday party or a swanky cocktail bar, but this isn’t the year for elegant holiday parties or swanky cocktail bars. This is the year for trying to stay safe and in a good mental space despite everything. This is the year to sip something sweet and warm and soothing in your favorite mug while curled up by a crackling fire. The hot toddy, the warm cozy sweater of drinks, fills this need.
I reached out to some of the best cocktail minds in Vancouver to get some tips on how to easily elevate this soothing concoction at home. The classic recipe is simple: hot water in a mug with whiskey, honey, a squeeze of lemon and a cinnamon stick.
Adding a few extra ingredients transforms this easy-to-make drink into something effortlessly special. Sara Newton, general manager at the Hungry Sasquatch and the Thirsty Sasquatch, shared her favorite home version of the toddy. Add 11/2 ounces of whiskey, 3/4 ounce of Barenjager Honey Liqueur, the juice of half a lemon, and 1/4 runny honey (a mix of 2 parts honey to 1 part hot water). Garnish with a clove-studded orange peel or a cinnamon stick. Newton uses Dickels Rye at home because it’s inexpensive and makes a delightful toddy.
Erick Gill, co-owner of The Smokin’ Oak and the genius behind the restaurant’s barbecue-friendly cocktail menu, recommends using a glass with a handle or a mug and warming it with hot water while you’re building the drink: 11/2 ounces of Wild Turkey, 1/4 ounce of Tuaca (for sweetness and complexity), 1/4 ounce of honey, and 1/4 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Mix well in a hot mug, fill with hot water, and garnish with a cinnamon stick and lemon peel.
Emma Campos, manager of The Grocery Cocktail & Social, offers a spicier and more complex version. Campos’ recipe calls for 2 ounces of bourbon, 3/4 ounces of lemon juice, 1/2 ounce honey, 1/2 ounce ginger syrup, and 1/4 ounce of allspice dram. Mix and add hot water.
To make ginger syrup, heat an equal ratio of sugar to water and stir it until the sugar dissolves. Steep slices of fresh ginger into this hot simple syrup until it’s pleasantly flavored. Strain out the ginger and place in a bottle with a tight seal.
If you’re not up for a DIY activity, Portland Syrups offers a concentrated ginger syrup that’s available at C’est La Vie in Hazel Dell or madehereonline.com ($16 for 16 ounces).
Adding allspice dram to a hot toddy is a game changer, Campos said. An allspice dram by St. Elizabeth is available at Total Wine & More ($29.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle). Marcia Simmons of Serious Eats and Alton Brown of the Food Network each have an online recipe for allspice dram, an allspice-infused sweetened rum.
Maybe last year you spent December with a champagne flute in your hand while sharing amusing conversation with friends and family. This December is more solitary and basic. Sipping a hot toddy from a chipped mug while swathed in stained sweatpants is very 2020.
The rush of normal life should return by next Christmas. For this year, celebrate the quiet comfort of a hot toddy. Breathe in the fragrance of citrus and spices. Let the warm steam seep into the pores of your face. Encase yourself in a warm blanket on a comfy couch and slurp it through your tears as George Bailey realizes his life is meaningful in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Rachel Pinsky: firstname.lastname@example.org