January 11th is devoted to two food holidays. Or actually, two beverage holidays. It’s National Milk Day and National Hot Toddy Day. Milk may do a body good, but it’s boring and requires no special effort. I downed my morning pills with a glass of milk, and then ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast, while Tara took a few swigs to wash down her leftover brownie. Technically we could have considered this challenge complete and in the books by 6:45 AM, but the lure of the hot toddy was too strong to resist.
I can’t think of a more perfect time of year to celebrate a hot toddy. Winter is in full swing, and cold and flu season is upon us. In fact, the hot toddy was once prescribed by medical professionals as an ailment to treat the symptoms associated with colds and flu. The train of thought was that the vitamin C was useful for overall health, the honey to soothe the throat, and the alcohol to numb. Hey, it sure beats Nyquil! The exact origin of the hot toddy is unclear, but it is believed to have come from India, where a drink made from fermented palm sap (yum!) called the toddy was popular. Scottish members of the East India Trading Company returned to their native land and introduced a version of the drink to their country mates. Rumor has it sweet and citrusy ingredients were added to cut down on the harsh taste of Scottish whiskey. Odd, considering these are the same people whose national dish is made with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, and served in the animal’s stomach casing. But who am I to judge?
Although there are many variations, a traditional hot toddy is a mix of liquor (usually whiskey), boiling water, honey, lemon, and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In other words, potpourri in a mug! Midwestern folk add ginger ale, while Wisconsinites substitute brandy. People in southern California make theirs using the tears of their fired agents. Err…tequila. They use tequila! Traditionalists that we are, Tara and I stuck with a recipe honoring the original presentation. (Not the palm sap version, the whiskey version). Here it is:
1 teaspoon honey
2 fluid ounces boiling water
1 ½ fluid ounces whiskey
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice lemon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
Pour the honey, boiling water, and whiskey into a mug. Spice it with the cloves and cinnamon, and put in the slice of lemon. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flavors can mingle, then sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg before serving.
Let’s just say, the Scottish should have added MORE ingredients to mask the whiskey.
And, I learned a valuable lesson on the economics of buying in bulk. We didn’t have cinnamon sticks or cloves, and when I went to the grocery store this evening to buy them, I almost choked over the prices. A jar of cinnamon sticks cost $5.89, ant the cloves were $4.99. I dutifully put them in my cart, and then stumbled across the organic foods section, where they were selling bulk spices. I grabbed a couple of bags, filled them with the amount necessary for the hot toddies, and ditched the jars. The cinnamon sticks cost me 30 cents and the cloves, 38 cents. I saved over $10 by purchasing in bulk. Whew! Who knew it was that cost effective?