Despite our modern conveniences, one historical struggle remains as fall stretches into winter each year: it’s so damn cold. The sun sets ever earlier on a grim landscape of skeletal trees stretching their bony fingers toward a gray, unrelenting sky. Our pumpkin-spiced cheer ages into a solemn, snow-covered vigil.
This has been the case forever. Just swap out your space heater for a cobblestone fireplace, and you have the same idea. However, one seasonal respite also remains – a drink that warms our bones and imbues a little cheer into our nights.
The hot toddy has been around since at least the 1600s, its reign supported by a simple and charming combination of sweetness, booze, and warmth. Tradition would have you believe that it carries medicinal properties as well, curing (or at least numbing) cold and flu symptoms.
The formula is simple: booze, water, herbs, spice, sugar, and heat. In many ways, it’s the winter counterpart to a big bowl of summer punch – they're both boozy, sweet, and citrusy, but with major seasonal changes. While punch celebrates long days of bright, energetic warmth, the toddy calms and comforts on bitterly cold nights.
For this specific recipe, we swapped out water for apple cider to add some more seasonality. The ingredients listed will make a single cocktail, but you can (and should) make a larger batch, and sip it all evening long.
1 cup apple cider
½ ounce squeezed lemon juice (save the lemon)
A few whole cloves
Pinch of cinnamon
1 bag ginger tea
2 ounces bourbon
Splash of honey
In case you didn’t get this from the slapdash ingredient measurements, this isn’t a mixologist’s scientific concoction. Put your digital scale away. The idea is you mix the sweet, the boozy, the citrus, and the spice to taste, and wind up with a sturdy cocktail that will light a fire in your belly and warm your ribs.
And if you want to use a microwave instead of a stovetop, go for it. You should get a gold star for even getting up in this weather.
In a small saucepan, warm the cider under medium-low heat. Stir in the lemon juice, cloves, lemon rind, and cinnamon.
When it’s steaming but not quite simmering, pour the cider mixture through a strainer and into your mug. Add the tea bag, and let steep for two minutes.
Add the bourbon and honey. Stir.
Put on your warmest sweater and drink up.