Friday, October 2, 2009

The Hot Toddy

As the nights cool off and you start thinking about putting the air conditioning unit away and just turning the furnace on for a couple of minutes, it might be time to make a warm nip. Nothing is as heart warming as the classic hot toddy. It has a perfect balance of lemon, honey, and bourbon that calms the nerves, warms the belly, and soothes the throat.

The hot toddy is an old drink whose history is left largely unknown. It was most likely created in the 1700’s in Scotland to make the taste of smoky peaty scotch more palatable to women. No one knows who created this drink or who named it. Some believe that since there was a lot of trade with Great Britain and India at this time that the name might have come from an Indian beverage named toddy, which is created from fermenting palm tree sap. Others believe that the name came from Allan Ramsay’s 1721 poem, The Morning Interview, in which Ramsay refers to the water used for a tea party as coming from Todian Spring (which was also called Tod’s well). As Todian Spring is the water supply for Edinburgh and as hot water is one of the most important ingredients in a hot toddy, it’s possible this is where our beloved warm libation acquired its name.

The hot toddy is one of the most loosely defined cocktails having only to contain a spirit, a sweetener, and a warm base. Toddies can be made from tea, coffee, apple cider, sugar, syrup, brandy, bourbon, or rum. But the most traditional toddies are made from honey, lemon, hot water, and bourbon.

When making a hot toddy you should use quality ingredients as there is no place to bury a cheap or flawed ingredient in this drink. When choosing what honey to use, ensure that you are selecting a high-quality honey with a low water content. Honey that has a water content of 19% or higher will tend to ferment and lose its freshness. One simple way deciding which honey has less water is to take two jars of honey, turn them upside-down, and watch the bubbles rise. The honey with more bubbles that rise faster has more water, and that is not the honey you want.

Ensure that you use fresh lemon as pasteurized lemon juice has a bitter aftertaste and does not have a well-rounded fruity flavor. To buy a super juicy lemon, there are some little tricks: first smell it, you want the lemon to have a strong lemony scent. Next, give the lemon a slight squeeze. If it feels firm, it contains juice. If it feels soft or has an airy, it is most likely a dry lemon. To get the maximum amount of juice from your lemon, put the lemon down on a hard surface, press on it, roll it around before you cut it open for squeezing.

Last but not least, make sure that you use a quality bourbon, rum, or brandy in your hot toddy. Bourbon has a stronger flavor than rum or brandy and when you use it in a toddy it is going to stand out. This is an excellent choice for someone who likes to taste the alcohol in his drink or someone who likes that warm feeling as a good spirit titillates the throat. Rum is a great choice if you like your cocktails a little sweeter, as rum is made from sugar cane and has a sweeter profile than most other spirits. Brandy (or cognac) makes for an extremely well balanced hot toddy.

To make a traditional hot toddy:
Cut a lemon into eighths.
Take half of the lemon and muddle it into a coffee cup
Add two ounces of high-quality honey
Add two ounces of your choice of spirit
Add four ounces hot water
Stir until all of the ingredients are well blended.

Go sit out on a cool evening and enjoy the beginning of fall.

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