Like many cocktails, the origins of the hot toddy are shrouded in mystery. There also seems to be no clear consensus as to what exactly does and doesn’t qualify as a toddy or a hot toddy. The most accepted recipe consists of liquor (likely whisky), hot water, honey, and lemon. Some recipes call for sugar instead of honey and some even contain additional spices like cinnamon and cloves.
“The origins of the toddy reach back to British colonial India,” says David Blackmore, global brand ambassador for the Glenmorangie Company. “The Hindi word ‘taddy’ means an alcoholic drink made from liquor, sugar, hot water, and spices.”
Records show Scottish doctors often recommended it as a health drink. Whether or not it actually has any curative properties is up for discussion. Clearly one has to be careful when professing any medically proven scientific benefits, but the toddy has long been seen as helpful in combating the effects of the common cold. That’s because the steam is good for your sinuses, honey helps with a soar throat, and lemon is full of vitamin C. Or maybe just because booze helps you forget your misery.
“In 1843, an article called ‘How to Take Cold’ ran in the Burlington Free Press, proclaiming the hot toddy as a cure-all for the common cold,” says Blackmore. “As if people needed a reason to take a hot drink with whisky as a main ingredient.”