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The Hot Toddy

When the weather outside is frightful, warming up with a hot toddy is so delightful!  There’s no better way to warm up and celebrate the holiday season than with a comforting, steaming cup of Hot Toddy. This classic winter drink, brimming with history and tradition, has been a cherished staple of cold-weather gatherings for generations.

White tray with 2 cups of hot toddy, snowglobe and candles.

What is a Hot Toddy? 

A hot toddy is a mixed drink made with a spirit, hot water, honey or sugar, and aromatics like lemon, spices, or tea. Whiskey is the most traditional liquor used, but brandy, rum, or even vodka can be substituted. The ingredients are combined with boiling water and served warm in a mug.

Various bottles of whiskey on a lighted shelf.

Origins and History

The Birth of a Classic:

The origins of the classic hot toddy cocktail have long been disputed. While its roots go back to 18th century Scotland, there are two main theories regarding how precisely this warming drink came about. 

One belief is that the hot toddy evolved from a traditional Indian palm liquor called “tari.” As tari spread through the British Isles, the name eventually evolved into “toddy.” Others, however, credit British physician Dr. Robert Bentley Todd for inventing the toddy in the 19th century as a cold and flu remedy. 

Regardless of its exact beginnings, the hot toddy’s early uses were primarily medicinal. The combination of heated liquor, herbs, spices, honey or sugar was believed to relieve all sorts of ailments from digestive troubles to respiratory illnesses. The whiskey mixed with hot water not only warmed the body but provided a soothing, comforting effect as well.

Over time, this drink emerged from the world of medicine and became a popular cold weather cocktail. Whether you prefer the Scottish folklore origins or belief Dr. Todd concocted it as an elixir, there’s no denying this drink has persevered deliciously into modern times.

Clear glass with drink, lemon slices and cinnamon sticks.

How to Make a Classic Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy


  • 2 ounces whiskey or brandy, rum, etc
  • 1 tablespoon honey maple syrup, or sugar
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 8 ounces boiling water


  • Combine whiskey, honey, cinnamon, and lemon wedge in a mug or heatproof glass.
  • Pour in boiling water and stir well.
  • Let sit 1-2 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  • Enjoy slowly sipping this warm, comforting toddy!

Variations of the Classic Hot Toddy

Once you’ve mastered the original, try these delicious variations:

  • The Irish Hot Toddy- Swap out the whiskey for Irish whiskey. Use a spoonful of brown sugar instead of honey. Top it off with a dollop of whipped cream for an extra luxurious touch.
  • The Rum Hot Toddy- For a tropical twist, substitute rum for the whiskey. Add a splash of coconut milk and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon for an exotic flavor profile.
  • The Apple Toddy- Add a burst of fruity flavor by incorporating apple brandy or apple-flavored liqueur in place of the traditional whiskey. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a slice of fresh apple.
  • The Tea Toddy- If you prefer a non-alcoholic option, replace the spirit with your favorite black or herbal tea. Earl Grey or chai tea can infuse unique aromas and flavors.
  • The Spiced Toddy- Enhance the recipe with spices like cardamom, cloves, and star anise. Experiment with different spice combinations to find your perfect blend.
  • The Orange Toddy- Bring a citrusy zing to your drink by using a splash of orange liqueur or freshly squeezed orange juice. Garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick.

The possibilities are endless! Adjust spices, swap liquors, or use fresh fruit juices to customize your hot toddy.

Clear glass of hot toddy with lemon slices.

Whether you need warming up or a comforting cold remedy, the hot toddy is a perfect winter beverage. This steaming, aromatic cocktail will keep you cozy all season long. Crafted with care and sipped with appreciation, it offers a taste of history along with celebration of the holidays. So the next time you find yourself bundled against the chill, consider mixing up this timeless classic. Cheers to the delightful hot toddy and the warmth it brings our hearts and homes during the most wonderful time of the year!

Winter scene with cabin, trees and mountains.


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