What are the elements of a great hot toddy recipe

November 28, 2017 (Last Updated: June 2, 2019) - As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

We have made our first attempt at creating a classic hot toddy recipe, but now we are going to dive a little bit deeper. We are going to look closer at the flavors of a hot toddy and explore the ingredients. The individual elements of a great hot toddy recipe are important and that is what we are going to look at today.

A Great Hot Toddy Recipe

While looking online at a variety of recipes, I have noticed several variances in what ingredients to use. Some people use brandy while others use whiskey while others use rum. Additionally, some recipes seem to call for tea (as we did in our first recipe), while others use spices and even others just use water. There are different sweeteners that are used in most of the recipes. Finally, the only real commonalities between the recipes I have found is that they all use lemon and hot water.

Kind of alcohol to use in a hot toddy.

My initial instinct on what to use for a great hot toddy recipe was whiskey, but I changed my mind. I have seen historical references to rum and brandy as well. It is worthwhile to note that brandy is distilled from wine, so fruity flavors may become more readily apparent if that alcohol is to be used. The benefit of rum would be that it has a natural sweetness compared to its whiskey brethren.

Even within whiskey, there are a variety of options. Perhaps for a little bit of sweetness, we could choose a bourbon. Or if we want to highlight spices, we could choose a rye whiskey. There are just so many options.

You know, I think it really comes down to what you want to drink. Even though our first recipe calls for whiskey, I really like the idea of brandy. The fruit forward spirit, in my opinion, lends itself to the historical medicinal intention and also enhances the sweet notes that we will already have in the drink. While we definitely have options, I am going to use brandy as my ingredient for our best hot toddy recipe.

To Tea or Not to Tea

In our original hot toddy recipe, we used a tea bag, but I don’t think that is necessary. It might be easier, but it may not do the recipe justice. Going back to the medicinal origins of a hot toddy, spices were used to make the drink palatable, as well as serving a medicinal purpose. We add spices to hot water to provide healing properties. Now, we might not be working to medicinal ends, but why not become more thoughtful about the spices we want in our drink. Let’s forget the teabag. What spices work well for a hot toddy?

I am a firm believer that simplicity can make for some of the best flavors. We already have quite the flavor profile in a hot toddy and I don’t think we need much else. I don’t think we need the full profile of some blended tea to make a great hot toddy. I think I am just going to add some cloves and cinnamon. No tea. No hodgepodge of random spices. Cloves it is.


I am clearly biased in this world. While there certainly is a historical reference to using just sugar, I am a honey guy. Besides, we are going to add lemon and the two work perfectly together.

The Rest is History

We know that there is going to be lemon and hot water in it, so I don’t think we need to cover those ingredients, other than to use the good stuff. Fresh lemons will be better than lemon juice and don’t use swamp water. There are really quite a few options in ingredients when making a hot toddy that keeps in line with the heritage and history of the cocktail. I am making some choices based on that history, but also on what I feel will make the best flavor.

Moving forward, I am going to keep these ingredient decisions in mind when I make a hot toddy and a hot toddy recipe.

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  • Reply
    November 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    I’m a whiskey-lemon-honey-hot-water kinda gal. I enjoyed this post! In fact, so much so that I’m about to make a hot toddy as soon as I finish this comment.

    • Reply
      November 28, 2017 at 7:31 pm


  • Reply
    Jeff the Chef
    December 1, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Yes, the hot toddies that I’ve had were steeped with a cinnamon stick and cloves.

  • Reply
    Apple Ginger Hot Toddy - Ramshackle Pantry
    December 11, 2017 at 10:02 am

    […] we talked about in a previous post, I have made the transition from using whiskey to brandy for my hot toddies. While it could really be any spirit that was available at the time to make a historically accurate […]

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