Chilled Magazine: The History of the Hot Toddy

An article I wrote for Chilled Magazine.

Pretty much the adult version of chicken soup, the Hot Toddy is known to be the go-to drink when you’re feeling under the weather, or the perfect potion to wind down with on a chilly, rainy night. Typically a mixed drink made of liquor, water, sugar and spices and served hot, this comforting classic is traditionally sipped on before going to bed.

Image via

Image via

Believed to relieve the symptoms of the cold and flu with its nutritious vitamin C, soothing honey and numbing alcohol, steaming mugs of Hot Toddies are saviors once the air becomes chilly and the days grow dark. While the Hot Toddy is most commonly associated with whiskey as the base ingredient, since at least the 17th century it’s been made with a multitude of different spirits, and years ago, that usually depended on where you were from.

Traditional Scottish preparation of the Hot Toddy involves the mixture of whiskey, boiling water and sugar or honey, along with additional ingredients such as cloves, a lemon slice or cinnamon (in stick or ground form). In the Midwestern United States, a common version uses ginger ale, lemon, honey and bourbon whiskey. In some parts of Canada, heated ginger ale, honey and either whiskey or brandy was originally used to make a Hot Toddy. Today popular variations of this flexible drink include the Hot Gin Toddy, the Hot Apple Toddy, and the Grand Rum Toddy.

“A great Hot Toddy balances heat, spice, sweet and sour flavors,” said Casey Nelson, Senior Brand Manager of Jack Daniel’s Flavor Portfolio.  According to Nelson, the taste profile of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey hits on several of those areas and provides depth that you might not find by making a traditional Hot Toddy. “Beyond the taste of honey comb, you’ll also find hints of toasted nuts, pralines and molasses, but underneath it all is the distinctive nose of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey,” he said.

The origin of this calming classic is tough to pinpoint, though many believe it was first created in Scotland, possibly designed as a sweeter-tasting alternative to Scotch. It’s suggested that the name “Toddy” comes from a popular Indian beverage made from fermenting palm tree sap. The drink might have been given its name when trading with Great Britain and India was frequent and a great way to get popular exotic goods to the British.

Warm cocktails are by no means a new concept, but according to Nelson, they seem to have gained greater consumer acceptance recently, most likely due to the growing popularity in whiskey and flavored whiskies.

“Hot Toddies are relatively easy to make and allow for a wide range of customization by bartender and consumer alike,” Nelson said. “As we enter fall and the temperature starts to drop, a Hot Toddy is a great way to change things up.”

Though a Hot Toddy may not actually cure the common cold, if you drink enough of them, you’re guaranteed to temporarily forget about your misery. And alcohol is in most cough medicines anyway, right?

Hot Tennessee Toddy

1 part Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
Spoonful of honey
Cinnamon stick
A good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Boiling water

Pour a good shot of Jack Daniel’s into a heavy mug. Add a spoonful of honey, a cinnamon stick, and lemon juice. Top with boiling water, and stir. Sit down, relax, and enjoy a lazy autumn day.


  1. charlypriest · September 19, 2013

    Who said being a bartender is easy. Your brain has to have some neurons left for you to remember not just how many orders quickly but to get all the ingredients which by the way do you think you can get drunk with Hot Toddy, it looks so beautiful and healthy. As a matter of fact I would feel bad drinking out of that glass because of how beautiful it looks. I can´t drink now anyways(pancreatitis, I don´t recommend it to you)but if I could, I just ask for the drink, put it on the table so it looks nice on top of the table then get a carton of wine and drink from cheap wine bough in the supermarket, then recycle the carton.
    Interesting facts, fun.
    Stay Frosty Miss. Nicole.

    • Nicole DiGiose · September 19, 2013

      Yes, I give bartenders lots of credit. All of that memorizing on top of crazy drunk people. Hot Toddies are great to sip on during a cold dark night. And I’m happy to hear you look on the bright side. 🙂

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