After a lovely weekend of sunshine in New York City, out of nowhere I came down with a full on cold – sore throat, sniffles, the works. My immediate reaction is to skip the cold medicine and go straight to making myself a warm mug of Hot Toddy, the medicine for grownups. I really don’t need to be feeling under the weather to enjoy it. Just the name makes me feel giddy, my steps more sprightly. In a completely alpha male sort of way. There are Hot Toddy Hardliners on such controversial issues as the use of sweeteners, or the age-old lemon zest vs lemon wedge vs lemon juice. I use whatever floats my metaphoric boat (my real one does not require spices or alcohol. Although, I still use it anyway).
I use things like saffron when it’s handy, and spices I use in making tea. Sometimes I even use a teabag for flavor. But don’t let this confuse you into thinking I’m easy going. I am a hardliner when it comes to the alcohol used. As wonderful as I’m sure Sambuca or turnip infused tequila may be, it’s no longer a Hot Toddy in my books, and the repercussions are severe. I have taken off my belt and given people a damn good thrashing for sullying the name of the Hot Toddy. Okay, I’ve just stared at them angrily like a harmless psychopath. Still, I bet they felt ashamed.
A Hot Toddy, in my estimation, should be made with a smooth tasting whisky/whiskey, including bourbon. None of this infused whiskey riff-raff. Time for a fun fact: in case you’re wondering whether there’s a difference between whisky or whiskey, let me assure you it goes well beyond color/colour. For many years, the New York Times spelled everything in the American style, with an “e,” which pissed off a lot of people from places like Canada and Scotland (they make whisky there, not to be confused with whiskey), and they recently implemented officially changing the spelling, depending on which country it happened to originate from. Here’s how it all went down: http://ow.ly/kvqXZ
I use a whiskey like Black Label, or a bourbon like Knob Creek, partly because it’s not overly expensive when I know I’m essentially going to be diluting the taste, but mainly it’s because it’s smooth and complements the flavors from the infusion. I save my Single Malts like Glenfiddich for drinking neat. And a rubbish, watery whiskey has no place in my life, and if I catch anyone drinking it in my presence, I will remove my white glove, and slap you in the face. Or furiously think about doing just that. You have been warned. On a side note, the specific brands I’ve mentioned above are ones I like. I haven’t received any of these free, and even if I did, I wouldn’t just plonk down the name of a whiskey for that reason alone.
Sona thinks I’m just being a pakhandi (a poser) and using the excuse of being ill to drink alcohol, which is more or less true, but there are some clear medical reasons that it works better than any cold medicine out there: the spices infused in water tells the bacteria to – and this is official medical terminology – shoo shoo shoo, besides there’s no better antiseptic than alcohol, which tastes much better than haldi (turmeric). If anyone needs more medical advice, you know where to find me.
Even if you’re feeling as fit as a fiddle, the best part of having a Hot Toddy is that it is a lovely drink for any occasion, especially when it’s raining – the perfect time to read Finnegan’s Wake (it rains a lot there). Here’s my recipe. Try it out and let me know how it goes:
RECIPE (for a saucepan’s worth. Adjust accordingly)
For the Infusion:
Lots of water in a saucepan, low heat
Saffron (if handy)
Fennel Seeds (2 Tablespoons)
Star Anise (1 or 2)
A massive piece of ginger, peeled, and mashed up in a mortar and pestle
Lemon zest (1-2 lemons), or cut up lemon peels
For each Toddy:
Whiskey (however much you feel like)
honey to taste (2 tsp should sort it)
1. On low heat, pour water in a small saucepan, along with everything up to the lemon zest and bring it to a rolling boil. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a teabag of something fruit flavoured, like orange spice.
2. Pour whiskey into a mug. Then add infusion mixture. Stir in the honey. Add some nutmeg on top, and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Sorted.
Optional: If using lemon juice instead of lemon zest or peel, add this in Step 2. Don’t get bogged down in directions. Have fun and experiment. Just make sure you’re using whiskey, or call it something other than a Hot Toddy!