This hot toddy recipe is extremely simple, and that’s what makes it a classic. Only two or three ingredients are needed for this traditional Scottish hot toddy, but a good quality whisky is a must.
When you have a cold, how many people tell you to have a hot toddy?
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It’s not just one person, right? A hot toddy is the Scottish “cold-cure” equivalent to homemade chicken soup!
When I saw National Hot Toddy day on the annual food calendar (January 11th), it reminded me that I really need to add this traditional Scottish beverage to my site. Of course, the hot toddy is now known worldwide, been turned into a cocktail, and had so many twists and additions that the original is almost forgotten.
I’m not saying that this is a bad thing with the creation of cocktails, or other versions of the classic hot toddy, but I do like to document “original” recipes. I put original in quotes, because with something that was created in the 1700s, it’s hard to know who actually was the first person to make a hot toddy, prescribe it for colds or to give it its name.
My favorite twist on the original is to add lemon juice and a slice of lemon, especially when it’s my homegrown Meyer lemons! Isn’t this a beautiful and unique floral cup?
History of the Hot Toddy
I did a little digging after looking up the recipe in two of my Scottish cookbooks, and discovered that there are several theories about the hot toddy’s creation and name. One is that 18th century Scottish doctors prescribed them so that it would cover up the strong taste of raw whisky, which was apparently much more “rough” back then.
Another possibility is reported from Ross Dennis, a drinks expert, “The first mention of what we now think of as a hot toddy comes about in the 1780s. We think the name hot toddy comes from the Todian Well, an ancient water source in Edinburgh.” –The Scotsman.
NB: Whisky, without an “e”, is how to spell Scotch whisky, whilst whiskey, with the “e”, is for most others. So do use a whisky! :)
Over the last few hundred years, the fact that this beverage is more popular than ever seems to say something about the fact that there’s probably some good in sipping a hot toddy when experiencing a cold. The Smithsonian Magazine published an interesting article about hot toddies and quoted the Mayo Clinic as confirming that “warm liquids can be soothing and help ease congestion”, but cautioned about going overboard with the whisky.
Does a Hot Toddy Help You Sleep?
Of course, with a bit of alcohol in this beverage, it’s probably just enough to help ease you into a good night’s sleep. Apparently, your drunk aunt was right!
Using Good Quality Ingredients is Key
Try to use a good quality, single malt Scotch whisky, Scottish heather honey, or another good quality honey or brown sugar (like Demerara). If using lemon, a fresh Meyer lemon will make a world of difference.
So now all you need is a cosy blanket, preferably tartan and made in Scotland (ha ha!) and a roaring fire wouldn’t be bad, either. Enjoy, and if you’re looking up this recipe because you’re ill, I wish you a speedy recovery!
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I agree about Scottish Heather Honey being an excellent ingredient. Some say that there is more Manuka honey sold than there ever could be bees to produce it so be careful as its pricey. I’ve got no idea if that’s true but Scottish Heather honey can only be good especially from genuine Scottish Native Black Bees which unfortunately are in short supply. Most UK bees are European imports now. Excellent bees but not quite native. The restorative effects of a hot toddy are well established. I had Covid and drove it away with a toddy (or few) from my own Scottish bees and the local world reknowned malt. Definitely use a decent malt. It really does make a difference.
Here, here, Alistair! Totally agree! This applies for so many top quality food and drink. Glad you recovered from Covid! :)
When I first started reading, I thought to myself, “I’ve never had a hot toddy.“ But the more I read, the more I realized that I have had them every time I get a cold. As long as I can remember, this was our family remedy. (Maybe that’s from the Scottish branch?) thanks for a wonderful and fun post, Christina.
Haha! Too funny! Thanks, David!
Wowza!!! There are so many tasty looking things on this page! Definitely saving this page. We can’t wait to try this, thank you
I used to date Hot Toddy in college. I wish I’d developed a relationship with this cocktail instead! It would’ve saved years of grief.