There’s no better way to ward off winter chills than with a hot toddy. Hot toddies were my mother’s go-to when we had a cold. But have you ever wondered where the term – and the drink came from? Some say the British brought it back from Colonial India, while Americans insist it was their idea. Most agree the “toddy” had its beginnings in Scotland. In the early 1700s, Edinburgh’s main water source, Tod’s Well, was also important to the fledgling Scotch industry. And in 1785, the toddy even got a nod from celebrated poet Robert Burns.
CLASSIC HOT TODDY
The original classic toddy was little more than a dram of whiskey with a splash to boiling water. Regarded as a cure-all and antidote to colds, it was even prescribed by doctors – in particular by a certain Irish Doctor Todd!
Nowadays, we take Scotch whiskey (or Irish whiskey) and add plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice, cloves, cinnamon and honey. Put the ingredients in a mug, give them a stir and add boiling water. If you’re not partial to Scotch, no problem! Everyone around the world seems to have a toddy variation. We added brandy to ours, as Scotch whiskey was a little out of my budget at the time.
DICKENS GIN PUNCH
Modern gin got its start in the gritty backstreets of 18th century London, which was home to hundreds of home stills. Although Charles Dickens was partial to a heady concoction of warm rum and brandy, in A Christmas Carol, clerk Bob Cratchit warms up a gin punch. Made with gin, hot water, lemon and sugar, it later became known as a Gin Twist.
In a toddy glass mix 1 1/2 shots of dry gin, 3/4 shot freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 shot sugar syrup (2 sugar to 1 water), top with boiling water.
SPICED RUM TEA
In Germany, a late afternoon custom – especially in the weeks before Christmas – calls for steaming hot fruit tea spiked with rum. For a little more “heat” and an interesting variation, you can use any freshly brewed black tea and bump it up with a spiced rum. Nothing compares to the warmth of the tea with freshly baked stollen and served by candlelight.
I luuurve mulled wine. I first had it at a Swedish 21st birthday part where they handed you a mug as you first walked in. I found it both delicious and warming and have had it on Christmas Day ever since.
The Romans brought vines to most parts of Europe, so it makes sense that they get credit for discovering an early version of mulled wine. The Germans and Austrians call it Glüwein, and regard it as the perfect post-ski warmer. It’s easy to make, and poured into a steaming punch bowl, it makes a perfect party centrepiece. Use a hearty red such as Malbec or Merlot. The rule of mulled wine is to be sure that is doesn’t boil, so you don’t accidentally boil off the alcohol (horrors!).
In a pot, combine 1 x 750 ml bottle of red wine, 1 orange cut into rounds, 8 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 star anise and 2-4 tablespoons of sugar to taste. Heat to just barely a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low, cover and let the wine simmer for 15 – 30 minutes. Strain and serve.
And finally, the one I’m going to try this week:
JAMIE OLIVER’S HOT RUMMY LEMONADE
To get the recipe, click here
Regardless of who came up the idea, there’s nothing like a toddy of any kind to take the chill off a winter’s eve.