Shaun Hicks has memories of Hot Toddy cocktails long before he became the bar manager at Woodwork. He would steal sips of the cocktails at holiday parties when he was a kid – either cognac or rum mixed with hot tea, butter and honey.
Some sources say the traditional Hot Toddy started in Scotland as a cold remedy, while others say it was concocted to mask the taste of unpalatable liquor. Either way, its recipe involved a simple mix of whiskey, brandy or rum with hot water, honey and lemon. The drink evolved as it gained popularity, adding new ingredients such as tea and cinnamon. And it was Hicks’s own memories that gave rise to the idea of adding a Hot Toddy to Woodwork’s drink menu.
“Every month or so, the staff gets together and we come up with new drink ideas,” says Hicks.
Hicks explains that, each year, he wants the Hot Toddy to change and, though this year’s Hot Toddy recipe isn’t ready yet, he looks back to last year’s as a big success. The drink featured amber rum mixed with a house-made toasted pecan and brown butter orgeat syrup, black walnut bitters, charred cinnamon sticks, lemon slices and a touch of kosher salt.
The simplicity of the Hot Toddy and the ease of creating different flavour combinations in the winter cocktail has now made it a popular drink at home.
As Tara Smith, purchaser and events manager at Sherbrooke Liquor, battled a nasty cold two years ago, she turned to her life policy of “whiskey can fix everything,” and looked to the Hot Toddy for some relief. “I wanted to knock this cold right out,” Smith says.
Smith explains that she prefers bourbon over Scotch for its sweeter flavour to complement the honey and lemon. But she also knows that the sweet flavours can match nicely with the kick of Kraken Black Spiced Rum. For discerning drinkers who prefer Scotch, she recommends easier going varieties like Glenfiddich or Glenlivet.
Hicks has used a Hot Toddy and other cocktails as cold remedies and experimented with his own recipes at home, basing his cocktails around the Italian liqueur Amaro, citing its pine and herb infusions as soothing on a sore throat.
“I don’t know if there’s any medical reasoning behind it,” Hicks says with a laugh. “But it placates the nerves and it’s comforting when it’s cold outside.”
Courtesy Shaun Hicks, Woodwork
Start by pouring the Scotch, cognac or bourbon into a preheated glass, followed by the honey syrup and the lemon slices. Top with the hot water, add the bitters and finish off with the cinnamon stick or cloves.
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