Cold nights, hot toddies


January 29, 2003|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Cold nights call for warm comfort, especially when winter's chill is exacerbated by the aches and pains of sore throats, sniffles or flu. If you're looking to take comfort from a cup, then you're probably ready for a hot toddy.

For those who accept a loose definition, a hot toddy is just about any warm drink jazzed up with some form of alcohol. Look up hot toddies and some sources will give you everything from Irish coffee to mulled cider.

But traditionalists cling to a more classic version. The recipe in mixology books is almost always simple and straightforward: a shot of alcohol, usually brown (scotch, bourbon, etc.) but rum will also do, with a bit of sweetener, hot water, and tart or spicy garnishes.

For nights when long hours of darkness combine with aches and pains to make winter seem endless, a hot toddy can be just the thing to cheer your heart, soothe your throat and warm your hands and feet.

A hot toddy all by itself has been known to cure a winter night's malaise, but sip it in front of a crackling fire and you might begin to think this drink could even be a miracle cure.

Cures aside, comfort itself can be enough this time of year, and one hallmark of any comfort food or drink is that it can be modified to fit your own tastes or whims. I like a classic hot toddy - hot water, a shot of whiskey, a bit of honey and a twist of lemon.

But if I'm nursing a cold or fighting a sore throat, I get creative. I usually start with brandy, assuming there's some available. But instead of water I sometimes substitute hot tea, usually a mellow Assam or a mild herbal tea. Whether I'm using water or tea, I add extra honey and escalate the lemon to a wedge, not just a twist. If I have a stick of cinnamon on hand, I'll use that to keep the drink gently stirred.

I've yet to find a cold or flu medicine that consistently does a better job of helping me through a nasty cold on a hard winter's night.

Do you have your own favorite hot toddy, a sippable home remedy with or without alcohol for cold and flu season? Send your suggestions or hot-toddy stories to

Hot Toddy

Serves 1

2 ounces whiskey, rum or brandy

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

lemon slice

cinnamon stick

2 to 3 whole cloves

Put alcohol and honey or sugar in cup and fill with boiling water. Stir and garnish with lemon, cinnamon stick and cloves.

- "The Bartender's Black Book, 6th Edition" by Stephen Kittredge Cun- ningham (The Bartender's Black Book Co. Inc., 2002)

Hot Toddy for a Crowd

Serves 12

12 ounces brandy, scotch, bourbon or whiskey

1/4 cup sugar

12 lemon twists

Boil 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Place 1 ounce of liquor and 1 teaspoon of sugar into a mug and fill to the top with boiling water. Twist a lemon peel above the liquid and drop it in.

- "Hot Toddies: Mulled Wine, Buttered Rum, Spiced Cider and Other Soul- Warming Winter Drinks" by Christopher B. O'Hara (Clarkson N. Potter, 2002)

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