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Here’s how to make a hot toddy! Make this drink recipe with whiskey, rum or brandy, and it will warm you from the inside out.

Hot Toddy
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There’s not much better to lift one’s spirits on a gray day than a steaming hot beverage. Here’s one that’s been around for centuries: the classic Hot Toddy! This historic drink used to be a cure for the common cold, and with one sip you’ll know why. A burst of warm bourbon, rum or brandy melds seamlessly into the lemon and honey. Even just the light steam on your face as you take in the aroma makes this drink worth making. Here’s how to make a hot toddy!

What is a hot toddy?

The hot toddy is a mixed drink made of liquor, hot water, and honey, often made with lemon, spices, or tea. The drink originated in British-occupied India: “taddy” was a Hindi word that meant a drink made from fermented palm sap. By 1786, the word “taddy” was defined in English as a drink with liquor, hot water and sugar.

The drink become popular in England and Scotland using Scotch whiskey. It then spread to America, where rum and brandy were the available spirits and used in the hot toddy. By the mid-1800’s, Americans were prescribing the hot toddy as the cure for the common cold!

Ingredients in a hot toddy recipe

Many hot toddy recipes use tea as the base, but the simplest and tastiest form of this drink uses hot water. Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this hot toddy recipe:

  • Whiskey, rum or brandy (see below)
  • Honey (or pure maple syrup)
  • Lemon
  • Hot water
Hot Toddy

How to make a hot toddy

These days, you don’t have to have a cold to drink a hot toddy. But once you take the first sip, you’ll appreciate why it was rumored to have restorative qualities. The way that hot water opens the flavors of the whiskey, brandy or rum makes it deliciously easy to sip. Here’s what to do:

  • Mix: In the serving glass, stir together 3 tablespoons whiskey, rum, or brandy with 1 tablespoon honey.
  • Add hot water: Pour in ½ cup hot water (substitute hot tea if desired).
  • Add lemon: Squeeze in a lemon wedge.
  • Garnish: Add whole spices like cloves, cinnamon stick, and star anise. These are optional, but they add a nice aromatic touch.
Whole spices

Use any type of whiskey, rum or brandy

The hot toddy is endlessly customizable, depending on what type of liquor you use. You can use any type of whiskey, rum or brandy to change the flavor slightly.

  • Whiskey: Use bourbon for sweet oak and vanilla notes, Scotch for a peaty sharpness, rye for a spicy finish, or Irish whiskey for a mellow sweetness. Go to Bourbon Hot Toddy.
  • Rum: Try white rum, aged rum or dark rum instead of whiskey for a sweeter flavor. Aged and dark rum add even more nuance in flavor. Go to Rum Hot Toddy.
  • Brandy: Brandy adds notes of dried fruit and citrus, with oaky notes on the finish. Go to Brandy Hot Toddy.

A hot toddy with tea

Making a hot toddy with tea is a common variation for this drink! However, we prefer it with hot water. Here’s what to know about making a tea hot toddy:

  • You may need to add more sweetener. The flavor of the drink becomes more bitter with tea, so you may need to add a little more sweetener to balance the flavor. For that reason, we prefer using hot water.
  • What types of tea work best? Black tea or herbal tea work well flavor-wise. Our favorite tea is Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice, which brings a warm-spiced flavor. Here’s how to make tea.

More flavor variations

There are many more ways to vary this hot toddy recipe outside of the type of liquor! Here are a few creative flavor variations:

  • Cider: Try this Apple Cider Hot Toddy: the sweet tart cider is ideal for the drink
  • Cranberry: Substitute unsweetened cranberry juice for the hot water (warm it on the stove or in the microwave).
  • Orange: Substitute orange juice for the hot water.
  • Maple: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
Hot Toddy

More hot drinks

There are lots more warm drinks for chilly weather! Here are some top hot cocktails to warm you up:

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Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


Here’s how to make a hot toddy! Make this drink recipe with whiskey, rum or brandy, and it will warm you from the inside out.


  • 1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) whiskey*, rum, or brandy
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) honey or pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup steaming hot water
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • For the garnish: 3 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise (optional)


  1. In the serving glass, stir together the liquor and honey.
  2. Pour in the hot water. Garnish with a lemon wedge, squeezing in the juice, and the cloves, cinnamon stick, and star anise (if using).


*Use any type of whiskey: bourbon, Scotch, rye, Canadian, Tennessee, or Irish whiskey. Or, use any type of rum: white, aged, spiced, or dark rum.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!