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Backcountry Bartender: Hot Toddy–Old and New School

Learn to make the classic cold weather cocktail and get a primer on a new version that's sure to impress your tent-mates
hot toddyLearn to make a hot toddy this winter. (Crystal Sagan)

As soon as fall starts giving way to the first hints of winter, it seems like everyone has the same thought when it comes to cocktails: hot toddies.

By some accounts, the quintessential cold weather cocktail has been around for over two hundred years and in fact, it’s so loved that it has its own holiday. That’s right. January 11th is National Hot Toddy day.

There’s more than one way to mix a toddy but the core ingredients are timeless: hot water or tea, lemon juice, honey or sugar, and spirits. Toddies are most frequently made with Whiskey (including Scotch and Bourbon) Brandy, or Rum, with a garnish of lemon and some combination of cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise.

First, we’ll show you how to whip up a traditional toddy, then shake it up with new school version of the tried and true classic.

Old-School Toddy:
For our traditional toddy, we’ll use Bulleit Bourbon, which holds a nice combination of oak, spice, vanilla, and honey and will lend itself nicely to an evening by the fire. If Bulleit isn’t your flavor, check out some other whiskey recommendations in our Manhattan recipe.

1 ½ oz Bulleit Bourbon
¾ oz Honey (try to find individual packets. These can be found at coffee shops or other fast food joints. If you can’t find any though, add honey to a baggie with bourbon)
1 Lemon Slice
4 oz Hot Water
1 Cinnamon Stick, for garnish and stirring

At Home:
Pour 1 ½ oz Bulleit Bourbon into a zip-top bag, roll up, and place in a wide mouth water bottle. You will need one cinnamon stick, one lemon slice, and one individual packet of honey for every toddy you plan on making. Bring a whole lemon and a knife if you’re planning on making more than a few.

On the Trail:
Start by heating water just below boiling. Add 4 ounces of hot water, the bourbon, honey, and a squeeze of lemon to a glass. Add the cinnamon– which doubles as a stirring stick– and stir until honey is dissolved. Enjoy!    

New-School Toddy:
This variation on the classic uses rum as the primary spirit giving it a Caribbean flair. 

4 oz Black Tea
1 ½ oz Black Rum (try Cruzan Black Strap)
½ oz Ginger Simple Syrup
1 Lemon Slice
2 Cardamom Seeds
1 Cinnamon Stick, for garnish and stirring

At Home:
To make the ginger simple syrup, cut a one-inch long piece of ginger into slices. Add ginger and equal parts sugar and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow to cool before pouring ½ ounce syrup into a zip-top bag with the rum, and then place inside a wide-mouthed water bottle. Plan ahead and bring one packets of black tea and lemon slice for each cocktail. As with the traditional toddy,  bring a whole lemon and a knife if the number of drinks corresponds.

On the Trail:
Prep is almost the same as for the Old-School Toddy, but starts by brewing the black tea. Add 4 ounces of hot tea to a glass, then add rum, simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon. Stir with cinnamon stick, add cardamom seeds and enjoy the warmth.

Have your own toddy recipe?  Share it in our comments section below.

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