National Hot Toddy Day, celebrated annually on January 11, pays homage to a revered cold-weather cocktail favorite. What better time to celebrate a hot cocktail than January, when days are short, nights are long, and temperatures are frigidly cold in most parts of the world?
A hot toddy is a cocktail that’s brewed in a kettle and served warm. Although it is believed that toddies were originally made using whiskey, today’s toddies are also frequently made with rum or brandy. The alcohol is blended with hot water, spices, and sugar or honey—and is commonly garnished with a cinnamon stick or lemon slices.
In addition to being delicious, toddies are also easy. Since the sugar (or honey) is dissolved in the hot water during the brewing process, it’s not necessary to make a syrup as you would for most other types of cocktails.
The origins of the hot toddy are murky at best. Some historians credit the creation of the toasty beverage to Robert Bentley Todd, a 19th century Irish physician who supposedly prescribed the hot, boozy beverages to his patients who dubbed them “toddies” after their beloved Dr. Todd. Whether or not this particular legend is true, the hot toddy is still considered by many to be the chicken soup of the cocktail world, with medicinal powers to fight off the cold and flu. In fact, the Burlington Free Press published an article in 1837 declaring the hot toddy a “cure-all” drink.
Another version of the story claims that toddies popped up in Scottish pubs during the 18th century—again, in this version, gaining popularity as a cure for the common cold. According to local legend, the water used in the curative cocktail came from Tod’s Well in Edinburgh, hence the “toddy” moniker.
Still others proclaim that hot toddies hail from Britain, where British bartenders created a riff on the Hindi tārī, a drink made from the fermented sap of the toddy palm tree. Then drink was then introduced to America during the Revolutionary War.
Whether they came from Ireland or Scotland, or somewhere in between, the hot toddy is here to stay—and will warm up any cold January day. Today’s toddies are made from a variety of spirits and spices, and craft cocktail enthusiasts have elevated the traditional recipe with the addition of bitters and unique ingredients to give the toddy a twist.
Whether you’re feeling under the weather, or simply want an escape from the cold weather, curl up this National Hot Toddy Day with a hot mug of this cold-weather classic.
National Hot Toddy Day is typically celebrated