The warming combo of whisky, honey, and lemon isn’t the worst thing you could drink on a cold winter’s night.
The hot toddy — a delicious combination of spirits, hot water, honey, and lemon, with the occasional spice thrown in — is a winter institution. The classic hot toddy uses whisky as its spirit of choice, but you might favor bourbon or brandy, or even rum. And there are recipes with everything from cinnamon to cloves and ginger added to the mix. Whatever your speciality, it's a drink with a history of warming hearts and livers on long, cold nights, as likely to be recommended aprés ski as avant sniffles. The hot toddy's health benefits have been touted by mug-wielding uncles and grandfathers since time immemorial, but are they legit?
"There are various factors that play into the origins of the hot toddy," food historian Annie Gray Ph.D. tells Bustle, including the 18th century belief that distilled alcohols like whisky and rum were medicinal. By the 19th century, she says, hot, spirit-based spiced drinks were touted as a cure-all for colds, infections, and fevers.
"There are definite health benefits to most, but not all the ingredients in hot toddies," Liz Weinandy R.D., a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. Remember that one hot toddy will only give you small amounts of each ingredient, though in the case of spirits, that can still pack a wallop.
Here are some of the health benefits — and drawbacks — of a hot toddy.
A hot toddy is a tasty treat with a great history — but while its components may have a good reputation for health, experts say it's important to enjoy its steamy glory in moderation.
Roxana Ehsani R.D. C.S.S.D. L.D.N,
Annie Gray Ph.D.
Liz Weinandy R.D.
Ali, S., Prasad, R., Mahmood, A., Routray, I., Shinkafi, T. S., Sahin, K., & Kucuk, O. (2014). Eugenol-rich Fraction of Syzygium aromaticum (Clove) Reverses Biochemical and Histopathological Changes in Liver Cirrhosis and Inhibits Hepatic Cell Proliferation. Journal of cancer prevention, 19(4), 288–300. https://doi.org/10.15430/JCP.2014.19.4.288
DeGeorge, K. C., Ring, D. J., & Dalrymple, S. N. (2019). Treatment of the Common Cold. American family physician, 100(5), 281–289.
Inagaki, T. K., Irwin, M. R., Moieni, M., Jevtic, I., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2016). A Pilot Study Examining Physical and Social Warmth: Higher (Non-Febrile) Oral Temperature Is Associated with Greater Feelings of Social Connection. PloS one, 11(6), e0156873. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156873
Inagaki, T. K., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2013). Shared neural mechanisms underlying social warmth and physical warmth. Psychological science, 24(11), 2272–2280. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797613492773
Kuroda, M., Mimaki, Y., Ohtomo, T., Yamada, J., Nishiyama, T., Mae, T., Kishida, H., & Kawada, T. (2012). Hypoglycemic effects of clove (Syzygium aromaticum flower buds) on genetically diabetic KK-Ay mice and identification of the active ingredients. Journal of natural medicines, 66(2), 394–399. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11418-011-0593-z
Lete, I., & Allué, J. (2016). The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integrative medicine insights, 11, 11–17. https://doi.org/10.4137/IMI.S36273
Polhuis, K., Wijnen, A., Sierksma, A., Calame, W., & Tieland, M. (2017). The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial. Nutrients, 9(7), 660. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9070660
Popkin, B. M., D'Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
Romeo, G. R., Lee, J., Mulla, C. M., Noh, Y., Holden, C., & Lee, B. C. (2020). Influence of Cinnamon on Glycemic Control in Individuals With Prediabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 4(11), bvaa094. https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvaa094
Zhu, C., Yan, H., Zheng, Y., Santos, H. O., Macit, M. S., & Zhao, K. (2020). Impact of Cinnamon Supplementation on cardiometabolic Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Complementary therapies in medicine, 53, 102517. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102517