It's time to take your toddy to the next level.
There are as many variations of the Hot Toddy as there are home remedies for the common cold. This makes sense since the famously comforting cocktail isn’t just delicious and warming, but is reputed to have mysteriously medicinal properties, too. It’s like the chicken soup of drinks, with countless additions and tweaks that make each one a uniquely personal expression.
Some people include honey, which lends the drink both sweetness and viscosity. Brown, demerara, and white sugar are also solid options, as are the less traditional additions of agave or maple syrup. Others lean more heavily on lemon, which in its most extreme cases can push the cocktail closer to the Whiskey Sour end of the spectrum. Woodsy spices are classic additions, often in the form of cinnamon sticks, star anise, or even whole cloves studding a wheel of lemon.
But it’s the choice of whiskey, arguably more than anything else, that defines the core character of each iteration. When it’s really raw outside, few whiskies warm in a Toddy quite as well as a great single malt from Islay; Lagavulin 16, for example, works wonders with its velvety counterpoints of smoke, cooked honey, cigar humidor, and salted dried figs. Its plush texture and impeccably calibrated sweet-savoriness make for a particularly rich Hot Toddy and, paired with a small dram of it neat off to the side, will quickly make you feel better no matter what ails you.
Irish whiskey is also a great option for a Hot Toddy. Slane, for example, with its lighter texture and delicate notes of bananas and dulce de leche, is very well-suited to a more citrus-forward Toddy, while also playing brilliantly alongside the spices. Rum works, too, especially barrel-aged ones like Equiano, which leverages rums from both Mauritius and Barbados to create a spirit that sings with bananas foster and toffee, and contributes to a Hot Toddy of decadence and deliciousness.
But for many Americans, the Hot Toddy is primarily a bourbon drink, which makes sense given its generally sweeter character. Yet as with all things whiskey-related, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to which one is best in any given context. Because even within the highly regulated world of bourbon, there are infinite variations in mash bill, aging conditions, finishing barrel (if any), ABV, and more.
Still, there is one key pre-requisite for which bourbon you choose to base your Toddy on: Only use bourbons that you’re happy to drink on their own, but that won’t break the bank. These six are all different in important ways, but make equally excellent Hot Toddies.
Backbone Bourbon Decade Down Anniversary Edition Uncut Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Ringing in at 110 proof, this will, as the old cliché goes, cure what ails you. And even if it doesn’t, you won’t really care after a couple of Hot Toddies made with it. Flavors of toasty vanilla, berries, salted caramel, and fresh-baked shortbread contribute to a uniquely complex cocktail.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Origin Series Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distilled in 2016 from a mash of 68% corn, 20% wheat, and the rest malted barley, this six-year-aged whiskey offers a tremendous amount of pleasure for right around $50. Dried apricots and white raisins are sweetly spiced and work well alongside the lemon component of a Hot Toddy…or nothing more than a glass and a large rock.
Harlem Standard Four-Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Built on a blend of corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley, this is a sweet, generous whiskey with plenty of maple candies, honey-coated walnuts, dried figs, and brandied cherries that makes for a layered, powerful Hot Toddy (it’s 111 proof) and a delicious (and certainly healing!) dram on its own. As a bonus, a portion of every bottle sold is donated to the Jazz Foundation of America.
Never Say Die Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Savory notes of cigar tobacco and cedar lend depth to flavors of candied orange peels, stone fruit, and toasty baking spices in this unique Bourbon that was initially aged for five years in Kentucky before being shipped to England for a final year of maturation. It’s a lovely, easy sipper on its own, and makes for the kind of Hot Toddy you can easily drink multiples of.
Wilderness Trail Bottled-In-Bond Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Highly wheated (24% in the mash bill, alongside 12% malted barley and the rest corn), aged for 5 to 6 years, and made in batches of just 18 barrels from a single fermenter, this silky, non-chill filtered whiskey lends pecan pralines, cloves, and a wisp of licorice to a Hot Toddy.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This is a classic for a reason: It’s widely available, reliably affordable, and its notes of molasses, figs, nuts, and nougat make it an excellent addition to a wide range of cocktails. It anchors a particularly warming Hot Toddy in which the vanilla notes of the whiskey dance alongside the cinnamon and clove.
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