The hot toddy: This boozy tipple not only warms on the chilliest of nights but is also known to soothe the season’s inevitable sore throats. There’s no official consensus about its origins, but several sources credit Scotland as the drink’s birthplace; some even suggest that it came about as a sweeter alternative to the country’s harsh whisky for the ladies. Others indicate the cocktail may have evolved from a toddy, an Indian drink created from palm tree sap.
Read more: Find a bonus recipe — for the Pfeffernüsse Hot Toddy, courtesy of Coppersea Distillery in West Park — right here.
In its simplest form, the hot toddy is a mixed drink made of a liquor — often whiskey, but sometimes brandy or bourbon (we’re especially keen on whiskey, ladies included) — mixed with sugar and water. But there are far more compelling ways to give this classic a contemporary — and local, thanks to the region’s growing number of distilleries — lift. Here, three Valley distilleries share recipes for their own soulful concoctions.
Hot stuff: The Tuthill Toddy is composed of four simple ingredients, including vanilla bitters, tea, and — of course — whiskey
Tuthilltown Spirits, Gardiner
The toddy is not a drink often ordered at bars, or thought of when headed out for cocktails, but rather a warm blanket to enjoy at home or whatever your final destination may be. “The idea of a hot toddy on a cold night makes me smile,” says Darren Joseph, barman at the Tuthill House. The restaurant shares space in the Tuthilltown Gristmill (the oldest continuously operated water powered gristmill in the state) with the distillery. In 2005, the award-winning distiller became the first in the Valley to produce spirits since Prohibition.
In the Tuthill Toddy, Joseph melds Hudson Four Grain Bourbon because of “its spice and bold flavors” with delicate rooibos. “The vanilla, almond, clove, and citrus one would expect from a toddy,” he points out, “are the very flavors I associate with the warmth and comfort of home and family.”
- 1½ oz Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey infused with vanilla and almond red bush tea
- ¾ oz vanilla almond red bush tea
- 2 dashes house-made sage tincture
- 1 dash barrel-aged vanilla bitters
- Lemon wedge with three cloves stuck into it
Hillrock Estate Distillery, Ancram
A while back, Dave Pickerell, master distiller Hillrock Estate Distillery (the circa 1806 estate bills itself as a “farm-to-glass” distiller, since their products are made on their own property) was at New York’s legendary Windows on the World with acclaimed barman Dale DeGroff. At the end of the bar they noticed a man frantically writing. The reason was a book, and the subject was hot toddies. “In an effort to ensure us a space in it, we finagled to jump behind the bar and create a few different variations. I can’t recall the man’s name and the book didn’t have a title at that time. I have no idea if we made the cut,” recalls Pickerell. Surely, if this scenario played out today, the honey-laden Hillrock Toddy would make a cameo. “Essentially, a hot toddy is a cold-weather version of an Old Fashioned. Substitute hot water for the soda water and ice, and replace the syrup with honey. Clove and cinnamon become the bittering agents, which just happen to be two of the unique flavors in Hillrock Distillery’s Solera Aged Bourbon,” Pickerell points out.
- 1½ oz Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey
- 1 Tbs honey
- 1 lemon wheel
- 5 cloves
- 1 cup hot water
- Build honey and bourbon in mug.
- Press cloves into flesh of lemon wheel; then add to mug and top with hot water.
- Garnish with fresh grated cinnamon, if desired.
Dutch’s Spirits, Pine Plains
Last year, at a holiday event in New York City, a former employee at Dutch’s Spirits — which began life in 1932 as a bootlegging operation and was (legally) revived in 2010 — whipped up a hugely popular hot toddy using their Sugar Wash Moonshine. “It was probably the most delicious drink I had all winter,” says Ronit Schlein, the distillery’s director of administration. “It just has all the flavorings you’re looking for this time of year, with the apple cider and cinnamon, along with the aromatic spicebush, allspice, and lavender in our Colonial Cocktail Bitters. When you heat this beverage and add the butter, it makes it that much more of a nourishing, comforting winter cocktail.”
Dutch Hot Toddy
- 2 oz Dutch’s Sugar Wash Moonshine
- 6 oz hot apple cider
- 1 dropper Dutch’s Colonial Cocktail Bitters
- Combine ingredients, except butter, in stock pot.
- Warm gently over medium heat; do not bring to a boil.
- Serve immediately in a mug and top with a pad of cinnamon sugar butter (see below) and stir until butter is melted. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple slice.
Cinnamon Sugar Butter
- Combine 1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature with ¼ cup dark brown sugar, 1½ tsp ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
- To store, transfer butter mixture to plastic wrap. Roll plastic wrap over the butter, twisting the ends to form a log and seal closed. Refrigerate until ready to use.