In honour of Hot Toddy Day, and because I plan to binge watch the last few episodes of Outlander tonight, I thought it fitting that I share a good recipe for the drink that is supposed to be the perfect cure for a dreary winter and the mood we often have to accompany it.
I am generally a fan of hot drinks on a cold day, and I do love trivia, especially as it pertains to food and drink. Toddies not only have a connection to Scotland but also to the American Revolutionary War, so they make a perfect fit with the Outlander story. Of course, some Outlander fans would say you don’t need a hot drink to warm up while watching such a sexy romantic tale, but well, better safe than sorry!
It is said that the first use of “toddy” for a drink was in India, where the fermented sap from a toddy palm was used to sweeten a cold drink in British colonial times. This recipe of a spirit with lemon, spices and sweetener made its way back to Britain, and it was the practical Scots who decided it would work well hot as a cure for the common cold.
Believing strongly in the power of preventative medicines, the Scots made the hot toddy a popular beverage. Their presence during the time of the American Revolutionary War (just like Jamie Fraser in the Outlander stories) was what brought the drink to North America. It is said the colonists liked the drink for liquid courage, but I think perhaps it might just have been to stave off the cold, damp weather.
I was a bit surprised a recipe wasn’t included in the Outlander Kitchen Cookbook, one of my favourite themed recipe collections. (It contains so many other wonderful gems that I will use that common old Scottish phrase – “dinna fash” – if you’re thinking this makes it unworthy. On the contrary, I recommend it most highly for anyone with even a passing fancy for Scottish tastes and a love of history.
You can use the spirit of your choice to make a toddy, but here I’m offering what I believe would be the Scottish recipe. Lemons wouldn’t have been common in Scotland or America in the times of the colonists, but feel free to add a slice of lemon if you’d like a more worldly twist.
Spices too are adaptable; traditionally the slice of lemon is stuck with a few whole cloves before it is dropped in the glass, and a cinnamon stick garnishes the drink. If you’re feeling adventurous, a few pink peppercorns or a slice of ginger root can kick things up a notch.
I believe that a Highlander such as Jamie Fraser would have chosen a smoky, peaty Scotch like Laphroaig, but if your tastes are more mellow then perhaps a Glenmorangie would be to your liking. Feel free to experiment with different options. Just remember not to do it if you have to get up and drive afterwards.
Claire Fraser would undoubtedly have a stash of spices in her medicine kit, knowing the benefits of such things as cinnamon and cloves. With their time in the Caribbean, I like to think she might still have had a few treasures that could have helped raise the spirits of a toddy drinker, and perhaps eased the jolt from such a forceful libation.
As a last tip, I’ll offer a few tips on the vessel you use:
- if you use a glass, put a metal spoon in the glass before you add the hot water. This will conduct the heat and prevent it from cracking.
- if you choose a metal mug, remember it will conduct the heat very well – even handles can get hot, so be careful. It would be a shame to waste a good drink by dropping it on the ground.
SCOTTISH HOT TODDY
Instructions: Add 1 1/2 ounces of Laphroaig 10 (or another Islay Scotch) and 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to a heat-safe glass. Season with lemon or orange, studded with a few whole cloves if desired, and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. Heat 3 ounces of water to a near-boil and pour into glass; stir until honey is dissolved.
We are in the midst of a heat wave. It’s not unusual for where I live at this time of year; the Okanagan is the northernmost tip of the Sonoran desert that runs through much of North America. It is a summer vacation destination, so many people are on holiday and don’t worry too much about being hot. For those of us working though, it’s tricky when the outdoor temperature is at or above body temperature. I bet you really could fry an egg.
Thankfully we have Okanagan Lake and a few other lakes along the length of the valley. They allow for moderate temperatures much of the year, but there is always a week or so that makes the mercury boil. I work mostly outside in the summer, long hours, but I vow not to complain because I am someone who dislikes cold much more than heat. I am thankful I don’t work in the snow and ice, and I am in a happy environment sharing in people’s celebrations. It could be worse. If sweating a little (okay, some days more than a little) is the price I pay, so be it.
It is especially delicious when we get to cool off. Some days we get down to the lake with the dogs and all of us go for a swim. Other days, it’s a soak in the tub, maybe even with a cocktail if we finish work early enough. At the very least, we can wander down the road for an ice cream cone at our local favourite, Paynter’s Fruit Market.
When I was a kid, it was easy to beat the heat. You gathered a few friends and someone turned on the sprinkler. Ta da! Instant fun. Or you listened for the ice cream truck – it was bound to come by sooner or later. Then you could critique your friends’ choices (“ice cream sandwiches are better than fudgsicles, for sure!”), and decided whose tongue turned the best colour.
I don’t hear an ice cream truck anymore, and kids seem to play at municipal water parks instead of in back yards. As long as they find some way to have honest-to-goodness fun, what does it matter? A little bit of creativity is all it takes.
I am reminded of a podcast I heard one hot summer day years ago, by the late great Stuart McLean. It made me think of a summer with my cousins when we had an epic water fight. In case you are in need of inspiration on a hot summer day, here it is:
With that said, I am going to close now, and see if perhaps the dogs want to frolic a bit in the shade with the hose. The sweat is dripping down my nose as I write this, sitting even in the shade…