Bartenders Tell Us The Best Whiskies For Your Next Hot Toddy

As the winter progresses, it doesn’t matter how much Vitamin C you ingest, how many daily supplements you take, or whether or not you got a flu shot, you’re likely to end up with at least a passing illness. And whether it’s a head cold or a full-blown mucus explosion paired with full-body shivers and a fever, you’re probably going to need a dose of medicine before spring comes around.

If you believe distilleries (and who doesn’t?), the best cure for your inevitable winter ailments is a hot toddy. This combination of hot water, lemon, honey, and whiskey has been curing sickness (mostly by knocking its drinker out in boozy bliss) for centuries. And, even though it was historically made using Scotch whisky, the juice you use is really up to you.

Andrea Correale, owner of Elegant Affairs Caterers in Glen Cove, New York enjoys a very specific flavor when she makes a hot toddy.

“I love my hot toddies to be sweet, so I prefer to use Maker’s Mark,” she says. “It’s bourbon and is made of corn and sweet wheat instead of the usual spicy rye. You can taste a little bit of caramel and hints of vanilla. Combined with a bit spice, this makes the perfect hot toddy combination.”

Since nobody will fault you for adding your own favorite rye, bourbon, or even Canadian whisky, there’s a pretty long list of available bases for this iconic, hot drink. To narrow that list, we deferred to the experts and asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to hot toddy whiskeys.

Larceny Bourbon

Patrick Turner, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore

Larceny bourbon is fantastic in a toddy. When served neat, it’s good and has a bite. A little honey and piping hot water bring out the best in this bourbon.

Old Grand-Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Wade McElroy, food and beverage development at Fieldhouse Jones in Nashville

I’ve always gravitated towards using bonded bourbon in a hot toddy. I approach a hot toddy like an old fashioned — strong American whiskey, rich demerara sugar, Angostura Bitters, zests from lemon & orange peels with hot water taking the place of cold water & ice cubes. Old Grand-Dad is always my go-to.

GlenDronach 12 Year Scotch

Devan Knobloch, bartender at Likewise in Atlanta

I love the GlenDronach 12 Year for a hot toddy as the sherry aged scotch has these amazing notes of vanilla, ginger and smoothness to complement the lemon and cloves! It makes curling up on the couch all the better.

Willett Family Estate Small Batch 4 year Rye

Seth Weinberg, bartender at Bourbon Steak in Nashville

I like to use a rye whiskey with a little higher alcohol content. While sweet up front, a straight rye whiskey will have a nice peppery finish that will add to the baking spices often used in a Hot Toddy. I love using the Willett Family Estate Small Batch 4 year Rye for this cocktail, as the higher alcohol content provides a great backbone for a hot toddy so the drink is still whiskey-forward.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia

While I prefer brandy in my hot toddy, I look for a bourbon that would have a similar roundness with a touch of herb and sweetness. Hudson Baby from New York is a small-batch bourbon and packed with flavor. It stands up well to bold flavors like chai while being rounded enough for a subtle green tea toddy.

Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch

Brandon Lockman, lead bartender at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon

When making a hot toddy, I usually go bourbon, but recently I’ve been using Monkey Shoulder blended scotch. It plays nice with a floral honey in a toddy.

Angel’s Envy Finished Rye

Kala Ellis, bar manager at O-Ku Bar in Nashville

If I’m going all out on a killer hot toddy, I’m going to make mine with either Angel’s Envy Rye or Balvenie Madeira Cask finish. The Angel’s Envy cask finish brings a great caramel and demerara note. The Balvenie similarly adds a demerara and raisin layer but with a hint of charcoal and smoke. Add a tamarind or ancho liqueur with some ginger syrup, and that hot toddy will cure all that ales you.

Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon

Leia Pecotte, bartender at Tulio in Seattle

When it comes to hot toddies, I always use Four Rose’s yellow label. it smells like rich brown butter and is what I picture comfort tasting like making it perfect for a hot toddy.

Crown Royal Apple Whisky

Drew Hairston, beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC

Some may call this blasphemous, but I am a fan of trying flavored whiskey in a classic toddy recipe. I would try Crown Royal Apple, or even Crown Royal Peach (if you can find it). Well-made flavored spirits can add that extra bit of character to a rather simple cocktail.

Catocin Creek Roundstone Rye

Jason Werth, bartender at Motif in Seattle

Catocin Creek’s sweet and spicy Roundstone Rye out of Virginia is great pick for a toddy. It’s so good I find myself adding less and less honey and lemon each time. I think my ideal toddy is just warm Roundstone Rye.

Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon

Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC

My favorite whiskey to add to a hot toddy is Wild Turkey 81. Wild Turkey is usually stocked at my home bar. I love making hot toddies with it because it’s smooth while giving just enough of that desired bite.

George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey

Alejandro Dieguez, head bartender at J. Bespoke in New York City

My whiskey pick for a hot toddy would be George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, which I prefer for its high proof. This whiskey ensures a nice kick after adding it in your tea, it definitely won’t go unnoticed.

Aberlour Single Malt Scotch

Silvia Rho, beverage manager at Copper Lounge in Los Angeles

Anything super high proof like Wild Turkey 101 or Aberlour Scotch is great for Hot Toddies. Since the water thins out the spirit, it’s great to start with something with bold flavors.

Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey

Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia

My favorite whiskey to make a hot toddy with is Tullamore D.E.W. Tullamore has a bit of a citrus note to it. At Live Oak we infuse it with lemon ginger tea and add Aperol and honey. One of our top sellers.

Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon

Jef Tate, head bartender at Janitor’s Closet in Chicago

Old Grand-Dad 114 – The higher proof shines through in a toddy without being overbearing. If I’m drinking a hot toddy, I’m either gearing up to battle an oncoming cold or already in the throes. Either way, I like my medicine strong and effective.