A Beginner’s Guide to the Hot Toddy

by Chelsea Cummings
hot toddy

hot toddy

Looking for a drink that will lift your spirits and warm you up on a cold winter’s day? Then say hello to the hot toddy. Used for centuries as a medicinal aid, this winter warmer has stood the test of time around the world. But what is a hot toddy? Where does it come from? Can you make it with vodka or gin? Read on to find out and discover some delicious variations.

What is a hot toddy?

Quite simply, a hot toddy is a drink made with a base spirit, hot water, honey and lemon. No wonder that it’s long been hailed as a cure for colds, coughs and sore throats. In essence, it’s a very simple drink, but the variations are endless. While whisky is the classic base, a wide range of other spirits can be used.

Usually darker spirits are preferred because their aromatic profiles pair well with warming spices. This makes dark rum, brandy, bourbon and whisky all fantastic choices. However, you can also use light spirits like gin and tequila. Vodka isn’t usually used in a hot toddy because its neutral taste doesn’t impart a lot of flavour to the mixture, but you are of course free to use any spirit you like.

And it’s not just the booze you can mix up. The ‘hot’ element can come from hot water, black tea, green tea, chamomile tea… You can substitute honey for agave syrup, sugar, and a wide range of flavoured sugar syrups. You can switch the classic lemon for orange or juicy winter berries. Your imagination is your only limitation.

In short, the hot toddy is a simple and incredibly versatile template for a heartwarming hot drink designed to chase the winter blues away and keep colds at bay.

Where does the hot toddy come from?

Like many of the truly tasty things in life, the hot toddy can be traced back to India. The word ‘toddy’ comes from the Hindi word ‘taddy’, which in the 1610s meant“beverage made from fermented palm sap.” By 1786, taddy had come to mean “beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices.”

The British were big fans, and started making it as a pick-me-up back at home. Of course, Scotch whisky was the spirit of choice and the UK’s trade routes with India allowed pub owners to enhance the taste of whisky and hot water with exotic spices.


Before we look at some more unusual recipes, let’s start with the classic recipe which is quick and easy to make using ingredients you probably already have at home.

The Classic


  • 1 cup of black tea
  • 50 ml of whisky
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Slice of lemon (for garnish)
  • Cinnamon stick (for garnish)


  1. Make a cup of tea and while it’s brewing warm a mug or Irish coffee glass with hot water. This should be a ‘hot’ toddy after all.
  2. Once warm, discard the water and add the honey, followed by the whisky, lemon juice and brewed tea.
  3. Stir well and garnish with a lemon slice and a cinnamon stick.
classic hot toddy

Apple Hot Toddy

This next recipe is perfect if you prefer a fruitier drink.


  • 150 ml of apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 50 ml of whisky or apple brandy
  • Cinnamon stick (for garnish)


  1. While you heat the cider in a saucepan, fill a mug or Irish coffee glass with hot water to warm it.
  2. Once warm, discard the water and add the honey and whisky/apple brandy followed by the hot apple cider.
  3. Stir well, add a cinnamon stick to garnish and enjoy!
apple hot toddy

Non-alcoholic Hot Toddy

A wonderful recipe when you don’t fancy booze. This tasty and warming concoction is perfect for Dry January.


  • 1 cup of tea
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1 slice of lemon (for garnish)


  1. Make a cup of tea and while it’s brewing warm a mug or Irish coffee glass with hot water.
  2. Once warm, discard the water and add the honey, lemon juice and spices.
  3. Top up with the brewed tea and stir well.
  4. Garnish with a lemon slice and enjoy!
non-alcoholic hot toddy

If you enjoyed this article, don’t miss Hot Cocktails for Cold Winter Days and A Brief History of Mulled Wine for more hot and boozy concoctions.

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