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Really, We Did Have A Hot Toddy For Breakfast

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Dec 9, 2005 4:58PM

As far as excuses go you can't do much better than having to shovel the walkway in front of your house to have a hot toddy. Chicagoist long ago stopped coming up with excuses and nowadays makes toddies whenever the urge comes, usually in conjunction with the deep seated chills.

While looking into the origins of the hot toddy we assumed it to be ubiquitous to the British Isles. We were more than mildly surprised to discover that its origins go back to India, which is probably where the English appropriated it. The toddy evolved from the Hindu word tari, which is the juice or sap from a palm tree like the palmyra or caryota urens. This sap was then collected and fermented to create a sweet and dark alcoholic beverage. The English, correctly surmising that palms are scarce in their homeland and incorrectly pronouncing tari, most likely utilized whatever they had on hand to approximate tari- whiskey, hot water, exotic fruit and spices from the colonies. Hence the hot toddy was born.

The hot toddy has long been used as a home remedy to cure colds and sore throats. There is some merit to that: many over-the-counter cold medicines contain alcohol as an active ingredient. It stands to reason that heated whiskey coupled with citrus and spices works to stave off the beginnings of a cold. We can't count the number of times we've felt congestion building in the chest, or that itching in the back of the mouth that signals the onset of a sore throat. A hot toddy later and we're feeling no pain, figureatively and literally. We can only guess that it's because of the heated alcohol's easier ability to assimilate into our bloodstream and the soothing effect of honey.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Follow the jump and Poppa will offer you his simple recipe for a hot toddy that everyone will speak about for days.

Hot toddy recipes vary like snowflakes. You don't have to strictly use whiskey- a dark rum, brandy, or cognac/armanac can suffice. We, however, like our toddy really sweet. So we use bourbon because of the sweetness lent to it by the corn mash and the darker sugars provided by the charred oak casks used to age bourbon. One-and-a-half ounces of bourbon should suffice: adjust according to your constitution. One bourbon we've been suggesting to friends and customers right now is Russell's Reserve. It's a ten-year-old, 90 proof signature bourbon made from a proprietary recipe by Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell with rich flavors of oak, vanilla, maple, and malt that isn't overpowering like the 101 proof "kickin' chicken".

You don't have to go overboard on spices and fruit. We use a teaspoon of citrus or tupelo honey and two slices of lemon. Add hot boiling water and a stick of cinnamon in a coffee or teacup and cover for two minutes.

We call this "Kentucky Rain" after the Elvis Presley hit from 1969. It really does remove the cold from your shivering bones.