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Warm Up with a Bourbon Whiskey Hot Toddy

bourbon whiskey hot toddy




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

A couple of years ago, I found myself on a girls' trip to Veil, Colorado, nestled cozily in condos linked to The Ritz. Picture this: snow gently falling outside, a massive fireplace roaring, and a circle of best friends catching up, laughter echoing off the grand room walls. As night fell, we decided to order something warm from the bar, and the choice was unanimous – a bourbon whiskey hot toddy. It was the perfect drink, warming us from inside out, creating an aura of coziness and camaraderie. But then came the bill. $29 for a hot toddy? We burst out laughing, incredulous at the price tag. As pricey as it was, we ordered another round, the experience was just too good.

sipping a bourbon whiskey hot toddy at the Ritz
2017: me at the Ritz with my pricey hot toddy

Fast forward to this past fall, when we revisited the scene of the ‘Great Hot Toddy Heist'. This time around, we swapped the opulence of The Ritz Bar for the homeliness of our condo kitchen. Armed with bourbon whiskey, and an evening to spare, we set out to recreate our pricey hot toddies with a home-crafted recipe. And I must admit, the result was nothing short of fantastic. Whether you're up in the mountains with your friends or cuddled up near your living room fireplace, this bourbon whiskey hot toddy recipe is a must-try. It's got all the warmth and comfort of a $29 Ritz hot toddy, without leaving a hole in your pocket.

bourbon whiskey hot toddy recipe

Discover the Warmth of a Bourbon Whiskey Hot Toddy

A Bourbon Whiskey Hot Toddy isn't just a drink; it's an experience, a hug in a mug. Imagine the snow gently falling outside while you're curled up inside, a warm mug in hand, the rich aroma of bourbon mingling with sweet and spicy notes filling the air. This drink is about comfort, about slowing down and savoring the moment. It's the perfect companion for those chilly evenings when all you want is to relax and unwind. 

Ingredients in the Bourbon Hot Toddy

So, feel like playing bartender tonight? Let's get to it. I’ll walk you through making a hot toddy that'll have you saying, “Who needs The Ritz?”

The Central Element – Bourbon

The star of the show is, of course, bourbon. This American whiskey, with its distinct caramel and vanilla notes, adds depth and warmth to the drink. Choose a bourbon that you love – the better the bourbon, the better the toddy. You don't need the most expensive bottle, but definitely something you'd enjoy sipping on its own.

Sweetening with Maple Syrup (or Honey)

Next up, the sweetener. Traditional recipes call for honey, but I love the rich, earthy flavor of maple syrup. It pairs well with oaky bourbon, adding a hint of natural sweetness without overpowering the drink. Honey works just as well, offering a slightly floral sweetness. It's all about your preference!

The Citrus Twist

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a bright, citrusy twist, cutting through the sweetness and balancing the drink. It's amazing how a little lemon can lift the entire flavor profile, making each sip refreshing and invigorating.

Spicing it Up: Ginger, Cinnamon and Cloves

Now for the spices – ginger, a cinnamon stick and a few cloves bring in that quintessential warmth and spice. They infuse the toddy with their aromatic flavors, creating a delightful, cozy complexity. It's like the essence of winter in a glass.

Balancing with Water

Lastly, hot water – the element that brings it all together. It dilutes the bourbon just enough, ensuring the drink is warming but not overwhelming. The water should be hot enough to meld the flavors but not boiling, as you don't want to burn off the nuances of the bourbon and spices.

bourbon whiskey hot toddy ingredients

Is Whiskey or Bourbon Better in a Hot Toddy?

Great question! When it comes to deciding between whiskey and bourbon for your hot toddy, it's ultimately a matter of personal preference. But, for those who may not know, all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon (mind-blowing, huh?). Here's the deal: whiskey hails from all over the world, and depending on its origin, the taste can range from light and smooth to rich and smoky.

On the other hand, bourbon is a type of whiskey that comes straight from the U.S.A. – specifically Kentucky. By law, it must be made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels, which gives it its distinctive sweet, full-bodied flavor.

Now, back to our hot toddy. If you prefer a more robust, sweet and full-bodied flavor, then bourbon is the way to go. It adds a rich, smooth, and slightly smoky note to your hot toddy, creating a warmer and cozier experience. In contrast, using a whiskey like Scotch or Irish whiskey can make the drink lighter, with smoky or honey-like undertones, respectively.

So, to sum it up: bourbon gives your hot toddy a warm, smooth, and full-bodied flavor, making it a fantastic choice for those chilly nights. But hey, it's your drink. Feel free to experiment with different types of whiskey until you find the one that warms your insides just right.

The Cozy Bourbon Hot Toddy Recipe

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Makes 4 servings.


  • 2 medium ginger roots, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
  • 6 lemons
  • 25 cloves
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 oz maple syrup
  • 6 oz bourbon

Here's the plan:

  1. Make the Spice Concentrate: Combine 2 medium ginger roots, the juice of 4 lemons, 15 cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, and 4oz of maple syrup in a pot. Let it simmer on the stove until it reduces down to a slightly thick syrup.
  2. Assemble the Hot Toddy: Into a large mug, pour 1 cup of boiling water, 1 shot of bourbon, 1/4 cup of the spice concentrate, the juice of 1/4 lemon, 2 cloves, and 1/2 a cinnamon stick. Stir well and serve hot.
bourbon whiskey hot toddy recipe

Making the Bourbon Hot Toddy Your Own

One of the best parts of making a Hot Toddy is how you can easily tweak it to suit your taste buds or the ingredients you have on hand. Let's explore some variations:

– Sweetener Swap: If maple syrup isn’t your thing or you're craving a different kind of sweetness, honey is a fantastic alternative. It blends seamlessly with the other ingredients, offering a slightly different, but equally delicious, flavor profile.

– Bourbon or Whiskey?: While bourbon is the traditional choice for a Hot Toddy, don't hesitate to experiment with other types of whiskey. Each variety brings its unique character to the drink, from the smokiness of a Scotch to the smoothness of an Irish whiskey.

– Shortcut with Tea: In a pinch or looking for a shortcut? Replace the homemade spice concentrate with a bag of Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tea. This tea, with its natural cinnamon and sweet spice flavors, can mimic the spice concentrate, saving you time without compromising too much on taste.

– Citrus Variations: While lemon is the classic choice, feel free to experiment with other citrus fruits. A splash of orange juice or a twist of lime can add an interesting twist to your toddy.

– Spice It Up (or Down): The beauty of spices is how they can be adjusted to your liking. More cloves for a deeper spice, less cinnamon for a subtler flavor, or even a pinch of nutmeg for an extra layer – it’s all up to you.

customize a bourbon whiskey hot toddy

The Bourbon Hot Toddy Story

Let's take a little stroll through history to uncover the origins of our beloved Hot Toddy. More than just a comforting cocktail, the Hot Toddy started off with a purpose that might surprise you – it was originally used as a remedy. Yep, our cozy drink was once a go-to for soothing cold symptoms and warming up chilly bodies.

Over the years, the Hot Toddy has evolved from its medicinal roots into a popular winter beverage. Its transformation is a testament to how recipes adapt over time, influenced by cultural trends and personal tastes. Today, the Hot Toddy is a staple in winter cocktail menus, loved for its warmth, comforting spices, and the gentle kick of bourbon or whiskey. It's a symbol of relaxation, a way to unwind and find solace during the cold winter months.

Ever Wondered Why a Hot Toddy is called a ‘Hot Toddy'?

Here's a fun fact to share at your next winter gathering! The name ‘Hot Toddy' has a bit of a mysterious past. One theory suggests it originated from Tod's Well, a water source in Edinburgh, Scotland. Another story traces its roots back to India, where ‘tārī' was a drink made from fermented sap of palm trees. When British colonists returned home, they brought the concept with them, adapting it to local tastes and ingredients.

Regardless of its true origin, the name ‘Hot Toddy' has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? It's as if the name itself wraps you in a warm, inviting blanket, hinting at the comfort and warmth the drink provides.

Other Winter Warming Cocktail Recipes

Now that you're all set with your Hot Toddy recipe, why stop there? Winter is the perfect season to experiment with a variety of warm, comforting cocktails. Here are 10 links to other winter-themed cocktail recipes, including a couple of hot options to keep you toasty:

  1. Mulled Wine: A classic winter cocktail that wraps you up in its warm, fruity, and spicy flavors.
  2. Hot Buttered Rum: Nothing screams ‘cozy' like the creamy, sweet, and slightly spicy flavors of this hot rum cocktail.
  3. Irish Coffee: A perfect blend of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and cream to kick start your cold mornings or nights.
  4. Winter Sangria: A twist on the classic sangria, this recipe features the seasonal fruits of winter.
  5. Cranberry Margarita: A festive spin on the classic margarita – tangy, sweet, and perfect for holiday parties.
  6. Pomegranate Moscow Mule: A winter version of the Moscow Mule, with the tasty addition of pomegranate.
  7. Spiced Pear Collins: A refreshing cocktail that balances sweet pear with a hint of warming spices.
  8. Peppermint White Russian: A minty twist on the classic White Russian cocktail, perfect for holiday get-togethers.
  9. Hot Spiced Wine: Similar to mulled wine but with a unique blend of spices – it's Christmas in a glass.
  10. Cinnamon Roll Cocktail: A sweet, creamy, and warm cocktail that tastes just like your favorite cinnamon roll.

I’m actually sipping on this bourbon whiskey hot toddy as we speak from our vacation home in Lake Tahoe. Oh, and if you’re looking for some winter entertainment for the kids while you’re whipping this warm print some of these free snowman template for a quick and easy craft.


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