What's In A Hot Toddy? This Warm Winter Drink Is Surprisingly Easy To Make

Every December, it pops up on your neighborhood bar's drink specials menu, or you see it at a holiday party, but do you actually know what's in a hot toddy? A perennial holiday favorite, this warm winter cocktail is a classic drink, and while it may be made up of just a few basic ingredients, it's basically magic in a hot, boozy cup. Trust me when I say that if you've been doing spiked hot chocolate this whole time, you've been doing warm alcoholic beverages all wrong.

Enjoying a hot toddy, which at its core is a warmed spirits and water-based cocktail, in the winter is like getting your hands on an ice cold beer in the summertime — it's delicious, satisfying, and just what the weather calls for. Not only is a hot toddy the perfect intoxicating seasonal beverage, but it is also one heck of a cold and flu treatment. While a mug of hot toddy can't actually cure an illness, it will help clear your congestion and help you fall asleep, giving you a little symptom relief (and a nice little buzz, too). And you thought drinking was bad for you.

Just in time for the holidays — and cold season — here are all of the things that go in a hot toddy:

1. Spirits

A hot toddy is an alcoholic beverage, but what kind of booze goes into it? Recipes vary, but the most commonly used spirits in traditional hot toddies are whiskey, dark rum, or brandy. More modern recipes even go as far as to use vodka, tequila, or sambuca, but you can never go wrong with the tried-and-true options that give the drink its signature smoky, spiced, and even medicinal flavor profile.

2. Hot Water

The second biggest ingredient in a hot toddy is not a fancy mixer or fruit extract, but something much simpler: hot water. It helps cut the alcohol, and infuse the beverage with the flavors and sweetness of the other ingredients. It's also, obviously, what gives the toddy its hotness, which is half the fun of the drink.

3. Sweetener

As with the alcohol choice, there is a variety of options when it comes to the sweetener used in a hot toddy. The most commonly used one is honey, which is a great choice if you're making a hot toddy to help soothe a cold or a sore throat, but sugar, simple syrup, and molasses are suitable alternatives.

4. Spices

What makes a hot toddy the perfect winter beverage is the warm spices the cocktail is infused with. Each recipe is different, but many hot toddies have cinnamon, cloves, all-spice, vanilla, and even ginger. If you're making one at home, you have a lot of flavors to play with, so get your taste buds ready.

5. Garnishes

A drink is only as good as its presentation, so like with most cocktails, a hot toddy comes with its own garnishes. Cinnamon sticks, orange slices with cloves, and lemon peels are popular garnishes that not only make the drink look better, but bring new hints of flavors to the cocktail. It's the extra touch that counts.

With so many different hot toddy recipes out there made with a whole arsenal of different alcohols, spices, and garnishes, it's about time you start trying to concoct the perfect one. And, now that you know the basics, go forth mix, serve, and repeat.

For more boozy holiday ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.

Images: Fotolia; Timothy Krause, Pat Nygren, Jim D, Dino Giordano, trophygeek, Dennis Brekke/Flickr