A warming elixir. A medicinal mixer. The hot toddy. The most common speculation of its name traces back to the Hindu word tari, the sap of palm trees commonly fermented into an alcoholic beverage in India. You figure that somewhere along British East India Company trade routes, merchants were going to experiment with how to get tipsy — especially if they’re headed back to chilly, wet Britain from hot, happenin’ India. The drink’s recipe is as loosely defined as its history but is based on four main components: a hot liquid, an alcoholic spirit, a sweetener and a bit of citrus.
If you’re not visiting grandparents during cocktail hour nor headed to the ski lodge after an exhilarating day on the slopes, seeking the cold-weather cocktail in the city can be tricky. Truthfully, the best hot toddy is made at home, saving you exposure to the frigid world outside. However, in the stir-crazy days of winter, combating cabin fever is as important as preventing pneumonia.
Ditch your drafty apartment and sprawl by the flames at the Fireplace[1634 Beacon St., Brookline. 617.975.1900. fireplacerest.com]. Nurturing bartenders serve a classic toddy ($7): hot water, brandy and lemon served in a sugar-rimmed mug. You’ll slowly feel strengthened against illness, relaxed by the cozy environs and the hot beverage before you. Hell, while getting a buzz, you probably also saved yourself a trip to the flu shot clinic.
If you survive the wind tunnel stretch of Mass. Ave. that crosses over the Pike, seek shelter at the OtherSide Café [407 Newbury St., Boston. 617.536.8437. myspace.com/othersidecafeboston]. Recently a lone, bundled soul sat huddled at the bar, hands cupped around her glass mug. She opted for a hot toddy, as she’s been feeling a bit under the weather. Due to a restricted cordials license, the staff has to be creative with the liquor on hand, and mixed drinks aren’t usually listed on the menu. Their hot toddy ($5.95) consists of Southern Comfort, hot water and honey — sweet and simple.
For those who like a little sweet with their only slightly diluted boiling liquor, the Peachtree Toddy ($4.75) at Grendel’s Den[89 Winthrop St., Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 617.491.1160. grendelsden.com] is quite pleasant. The Harvard Square standby has a wide variety of hot drinks including mulled wine and cider (ladled from a simmering Crock-Pot) with either port or rum.
While most local havens can mix you up something steamy and soothing, the hot toddy is still a drink best prepared at home. Whether you feel a cold coming on or merely crave a calming drink before bedtime, settle into your slippers and put the kettle on. It’s def hot toddy time.
Classic Hot Toddy
6 oz. Earl Grey tea
2 oz. brandy
1 tsp. honey
1 lemon wedge
Brew tea as usual. Microwave brandy in mug for one minute to warm. Pour hot tea into mug and stir. Add honey and mix well. Squeeze juice from the lemon into the drink and garnish with the lemon wedge.
Spiced Hot Toddy
2 oz. spiced rum
1 oz. apricot brandy
6 oz. water
1 tsp. sugar
1 orange wedge
Heat rum, brandy and water in saucepan on stove till just boiling. Pour into mug and mix in sugar. Garnish with the orange wedge.