Beat the freezer with a hot toddy – homemade or from these CT restaurants

Beat the freezer with a hot toddy – homemade or from these CT restaurants

The windy cold front went through, leaving an ice-cold glaze over the tiles. The view was three to six at the end of the week. Winter was about to set in.

My answer: among a hot toddy! A well-made example may not ward off COVID, but it is known to be the cure for many other conditions, including January weather.

The soothing properties of spicy hot water mixed with some booze and sweetener are well documented. The feeling of warmth and well-being that a toddy brings was familiar to our ancestors. They even prescribed toddies for a variety of ailments ranging from grip to toothache.

The recipe is simple, but has almost endless variations.


Flavors may include a cinnamon stick, cloves or even tea. A generous squeeze of lemon is a must. Insert some whole cloves into the used wedge, then add it for more flavor. For something different, try a section of two of grapefruit.

Part of the magic of a toddy is the balance between sour and sweet. Honey is the old favorite. Go easy. It is sweeter than sugar. If sugar is your preference, use one that will add flavor: brown (either light or dark), or the demerara sugar sold as Sugar in the Raw. I have a friend who sweetens his coffee with molasses. I wonder if it would work in a toddy? Agave syrup would add another dimension. Maple syrup mixes well and it’s great with the spices.

The recipe for a hot toddy is simple but has almost endless variations.

The recipe for a hot toddy is simple but has almost endless variations.

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Add the hot water and give it a good stir to mix all the sweetener in.

Now it’s time for booze. Whiskey is the place to start. All-American bourbon is traditional – the unmistakable taste and vanilla overtones fit well. The British prefer Scotch whiskey, while on Emerald Isle they prefer Irish.

Brandy has a long association with the toddy. I bet a tequila or smoked mezcal would be good with the grapefruit-agave combination. Rome, the favorite spirit of colonial America, mixes well with fruit. Use amber or dark rum for most flavor. Applejack is a natural with the maple sweetener.

Every combination creates fragrant steam that is part of the pleasure. A deep breath is almost as healing as drinking it down.

During the predicted weather, we tried a few flavor combinations at home.

“This is just what I would have if I had a cold,” Marsha said as she sipped a toddy made with Harney and Sons Cranberry-Autumn black tea. Sweetened with maple syrup and enriched with brandy, it was soothing in any case.

The classic combination of bourbon and cloves was a winning toddy.  An extra splash of Meyer lemon juice gave a characteristic fruity citrus character to balance the rich Maker's Mark bourbon.

The classic combination of bourbon and cloves was a winning toddy. An extra splash of Meyer lemon juice gave a characteristic fruity citrus character to balance the rich Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

A toddy with lemon, Jamaican Exodus rum and a cinnamon stick warmed.  Let it soak for a few minutes so that the spicy cinnamon flavor can develop.

A toddy with lemon, Jamaican Exodus rum and a cinnamon stick warmed. Let it soak for a few minutes so that the spicy cinnamon flavor can develop.

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Toddy’s is the result of experimentation and innovation. Use what you have on hand and keep peeling to find the best taste.

We learned that a mixture of dark brown sugar and honey gives the richest taste and best color. With lemon, Jamaican Exodus rum and a cinnamon stick warmed the toddy. We let it soak for a few minutes so the spicy cinnamon flavor would develop.

The classic combination of bourbon and cloves was a winner. An extra splash of Meyer lemon juice gave a characteristic fruity citrus character to balance the rich Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Sal Baglinvio, manager at Bailey’s Backyard in Ridgefield, said demand for toddies is rising as mercury falls. Their signature version is made with Berkshire Bourbon, local honey, English breakfast tea and a clove studded with lemon.

At the cozy Fife and Drum in Kent, toddies are based on local Harney’s English Breakfast tea with lemon, honey and a cinnamon stick. Manager Alyssa Potts explained that they offer a choice of bourbon or, for more spice, rye.

“We sell a lot of toddies,” Angela Grogran at the Brussels Brasserie in the South Norwalk told me. The most popular version is based on a famous Irish recipe with John Power’s Irish whiskey and brown sugar, flavored with a whole round slice of lemon pierced with a carnation in each section. Very beautiful.

A toddy made with Harney and Sons Cranberry-Autumn black tea, sweetened with maple syrup and enriched with brandy - soothing in any case.

A toddy made with Harney and Sons Cranberry-Autumn black tea, sweetened with maple syrup and enriched with brandy – soothing in any case.

Frank Whitman / For Hearst Connecticut Media Group

I understand that there is a frosty Alberta Clipper on the way – I want to warm the mugs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *