Cocktail Recipe

Hot Whiskey

This recipe is a hybrid of Jerry Thomas’s Irish Whiskey Punch—prepared with “pure Irish whiskey,” hot water, and lemon oleo saccharum—and his Whiskey Skin, served with whiskey, hot water, and lemon peel with no sugar, from the 1862 Bar-Tenders Guide. David Wondrich dates the first mention of the hot toddy (which is what we’d call this drink today) back to the 1750s, and celebrated it as “a fixture of American tippling for a century or more” in Imbibe!

When I visited Ireland for the first time in 1997, I saw a patron sipping this toddy the locals called “hot whiskey” in a pub in Galway on a chilly rainy day, and I ordered one without hesitation. As a native Midwesterner weaned as a bartender in Wisconsin, I was no stranger to hot toddies, but I’d never tasted one served with a clove-studded lemon wedge, which serves the same steam-and heat-mitigating function as the creamy head on an Irish Coffee. Since alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, if you combine boiling hot water with alcohol, heady fumes will evaporate from the glass, repelling all but the most intrepid imbibers. The lemon floats to the surface, blocking the steam from billowing up, and the heat from the water enhances the cloves’ aromatics.

I prefer a pure pot-stilled Irish whiskey in this drink, but some of the more flavorful blends work well, too. Just about any pot-stilled spirit mixes well as a toddy; you’re welcome to sweeten with sugar or agave or maple syrup and use tea in place of hot water, if you please. Toddies from Thomas’s time were garnished with nutmeg, but clove and cinnamon are superb substitutes.

Ingredients —

Whiskey base

4 oz. hot water
1½ oz. Powers Irish whiskey
1 oz. honey syrup
Garnish: 1 lemon wedge studded with 3 cloves

Honey Syrup
16 oz. filtered water
24 oz. honey

Instructions —

Build in a preheated tempered mug. Garnish with the lemon wedge.

Honey Syrup

Simmer the water and honey in a pot over medium heat (approximately 180 ̊F) until the honey dissolves. Cool and bottle.

This recipe appears in the print edition of the February 2018 issue.
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