Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Bourbon Cocktails

Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy cocktail in a glass mug with lemon wheel and cloves / Tim Nusog

The Hot Toddy cocktail is the grandfather of hot drinks. Equally at home in a snowbound mountain cabin as it is on an acclaimed cocktail menu, the classic Hot Toddy has one job that it takes quite seriously: warming you up.

The Toddy’s origins are in the mid-18th century, and the drink traditionally comprises a spirit, sugar and hot water, perhaps with a lemon peel or assorted spices. In Ireland, they used Irish whiskey. In Scotland, they used scotch. In the United States, well, they used whatever was on hand—often brandy or rum. Today, whiskey usually wins out. But, given the Toddy’s customizable nature, you may find the cocktail laced with a number of different spirits depending on where you drink one.

A good Toddy has been known to jump-start mornings, cure colds and play furnace on a frigid evening. Many people believe that its first use was as a medicinal aid. Liquor was known to numb pain, while citrus and sugar (or honey) could soothe a sore throat. Take one sip of the hot, comforting cocktail and it’s easy to see how it has stood the test of time. Sure, the prevalence of central heating and modern medicine may be more effective than a warm drink, but you can’t deny the life-giving power of a Hot Toddy.

This Toddy recipe comes from San Francisco bartender Jacques Bezuidenhout and features whiskey, hot water, demerara sugar and a clove-studded lemon peel of lemon wheel. You can use any kind of whiskey you like, and the end result will be delicious. Fortunately, the Toddy is very easy to make. Grab your favorite mug, and heat it with boiling water, similar to how you chill a Martini glass. After a minute or two, dump the water, and build your drink in the same mug by combining your spirit with sugar and more hot water. All that’s left to do is throw another log on the fire and enjoy a warm whiskey embrace.


Watch Now: How to Make a Perfect Hot Toddy


  • Boiling water, to fill a mug

  • 4 cloves

  • 1 lemon peel or wheel

  • 2 teaspoons demerara sugar or brown sugar

  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed

  • 2 ounces whiskey (bourbon, rye, Irish or scotch)


  1. Fill a mug with boiling water and let stand for a minute or two to warm.

  2. Meanwhile, stick the cloves into the lemon peel or wheel and set aside.

  3. Empty the mug and fill about halfway with fresh boiling water.

  4. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

  5. Add the prepared lemon peel or wheel and stir.

  6. Add the lemon juice and whiskey, and stir again.

Choose Your Garnish Weapon

If you’re feeling freewheeling, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to peel as long a strip of lemon peel as you can manage. If you’re wanting to expend less energy on your garnish-making, slice a thin wheel from one of the ends of a whole lemon. Whichever shape you choose to maneuver, stud the garnish with a few cloves. They’re lookers, yes, but they also provide an additional touch of warmth to the Toddy.

Any Spirit Works. Really.

Scotch; Irish whiskey; rye: The brown spirit is often what leaps to mind when people think of a Hot Toddy’s boozy base. Understandable because the spirit’s heft and roundness complements the cocktail’s other ingredients nicely. But any spirit is a good Toddy base. Truly. Of course, rum, being a kindred brown-spirit cousin of whiskey works well. So do agave-based spirits like tequila and mezcal, or even gin. The endgame is different with each spirit category. The warming results are not.