Apple Cider Hot Toddy

Favorite WinterApple CiderBourbonCocktail

Feeling cold or under the weather? Warm up with an Apple Cider Hot Toddy! Made with bourbon, honey, spices, and a little apple cider, it may not cure your cold, but it'll sure make you feel better.

Photography Credit: Nancy Mitchell

It’s not often you can drink alcohol and claim it’s good for you, but in the case of the hot toddy, you (maybe) can. The combination of whiskey, honey, lemon, and spices is sure to warm you up on a cold day, and it may even help relieve your symptoms if you’re feeling a little under the weather.

While most toddies are made with hot water and lemon, this version uses apple cider for an extra dose of seasonal goodness. (You can also add lemon here, but I prefer it without—I think the apple cider has enough tartness on its own.)

THE HISTORY OF THE HOT TODDY

It’s generally agreed that the hot toddy has been around for a long time, although no one is quite sure how long. Speaking to The Telegraph in 2001, whiskey expert Charlie MacLean traced the origin of the hot toddy to 18th-century Scotland, where honey and spices were added to mask the harsh flavor of bad Scotch.

Since then, the hot toddy has been beloved as both a winter warmer and a boozy DIY cold medicine. But is it actually good for you?

IS A HOT TODDY A HEALTHY DRINK?

According to a 2008 study, drinking hot drinks can help to relieve the symptoms of cold and flu. Spices can stimulate saliva production, soothing a sore throat, and honey is good for a cough.

But the jury’s out on the benefits of the booze; while moderate amounts of alcohol can act as a sedative and help you sleep, if you’re truly sick, it’s probably better not to overindulge.

hot toddy recipe with spices apple cider and bourbon

WHAT LIQUOR TO USE FOR A HOT TODDY

Although it’s most commonly made with whiskey, you can make a toddy with pretty much anything, even tequila or gin. My preference here is for bourbon; its warm, sweet edge is a particularly nice complement to the apple cider.

A good mid-range bourbon, like Knob Creek or Four Roses, will do well here. (Super-premium bourbons are best saved for drinks where the flavor will come through a bit more.)

SCALE IT UP FOR A PARTY!

Want a warm cocktail for a party? Scale this up to serve the number of guests, combine everything on the stovetop, and keep warm over the lowest heat. Let guests serve themselves with a ladle.

You can also set the bourbon out separately and let guests add a splash to their mugs as desired.

THE NOT-TODDY, OR A NON-ALCOHOLIC HOT TODDY

Not feeling like drinking? I’m a big fan of what I call a Not-Toddy, a hot toddy without the booze. It’s every bit as delicious, and it’s suitable for children, teetotalers, and nights when you just don’t feel like drinking. In this case, you’re basically making a spiced apple cider, but what’s not to like about that?

MORE WINTER DRINKS TO ENJOY:

Apple Cider Hot Toddy Recipe

  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 hot toddy

To make a non-alcoholic hot toddy (or a Not-Toddy), just leave out the bourbon.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon (or any other kind of whiskey)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 anise star (optional)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider

Method

1 Combine bourbon and honey in a heat-proof mug or snifter.

2 Simmer the apple cider with spices: Add the apple cider and spices to a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat and bring it to a simmer, about 10 minutes.

3 Pour cider into mug: Strain the cider into the mug and stir. Or if you want, leave a few spices in the mug for extra aromatics as you sip!

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Nancy Mitchell

Nancy is a writer and photographer living in New York. She makes drinks with local and homegrown ingredients and writes about the New York cocktail scene on her Instagram feed and at her blog, The Backyard Bartender.

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