Culinary Arts

Classic Hot Toddy Recipe, Variations, and Cocktail History

Written by MasterClass

Mar 6, 2019 • 2 min read

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On winter nights, nothing beats a hot toddy for cozy, cold-weather comfort. Read on to learn the origins of the hot toddy, as well as occasions to drink it and a recipe to make your own at home.



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What Is a Hot Toddy?

A hot toddy is an alcoholic cocktail typically served hot in a mug. The traditional hot toddy formula is simple:

  • A base liquor (usually whiskey)
  • Honey
  • Lemon
  • Tea or hot water

What Are the Origins of the Hot Toddy?

Believed to have been invented in Scotland sometime in the eighteenth century, the hot toddy is a popular cocktail during the cold months and especially around Christmas.

The hot toddy is alternately called a hot whiskey (in Ireland), and you may also know it’s rum-based relative, grog.

Can a Hot Toddy Really Cure Colds?

Traditionally, hot toddies have commonly been prescribed as a cough and cold remedy. Today, we know that any hot drink with citrus and honey can help ease cough and cold symptoms—it doesn’t necessarily need to include any alcohol.

3 Hot Toddy Variations

Depending on preference (and what you’ve got on hand), hot toddies might vary slightly. That’s a good thing! As long as it’s hot, and warms you up down to your bones, you’ve done it. Here are some ideas for spicing up your hot toddy recipe.

  1. Spirits. Whiskey is the standard spirit of choice for a hot toddy, but you can also substitute bourbon or rye for a slight variation. Other choices include brandy or dark rum.
  2. Sweeteners. Put a different spin on your hot toddy by using agave nectar or maple syrup in place of honey. You can also use brown sugar by muddling it with the lemon juice at the bottom of the mug before adding your other liquids. Just remember that you’ll lose the healing benefits of honey by using a different sweetener.
  3. Spices and other ingredients. Cinnamon, cloves, star anise, nutmeg, and ginger are just a few spices that can add a whole new dimension to your hot toddy. You can also feel free to experiment with any other ingredients that impart a warm, wintery aesthetic (for instance, apple cider).
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Classic Hot Toddy Recipe

Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
  • 1 ½ ounces whiskey (or dark spirit of choice)
  • 1 tbsp honey (or sweetener of choice)
  • ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tea bag, preferably a black tea like Earl Grey
  • Cinnamon stick, star anise, and/or lemon slice for garnish
  1. Add Earl Grey tea bag to a coffee mug full of hot water and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a warm glass mug, add the honey or sweetener. Add spirit, and lemon juice, and stir to combine.
  3. When the tea has steeped, remove the tea bag and pour liquid into the glass mug. Mix well. Garnish with aromatics: a whole cinnamon stick, star anise, a lemon peel studded with whole cloves, or a slice of lemon.

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