Though a traditional hot toddy primarily consists of whiskey, hot water, lemon and honey, the term “toddy” has come to encompass a variety of hot drinks made with booze and a tea or tea-like base. And while tea is a fantastic way to warm up, it also acts as a stellar cocktail ingredient, whether with alcoholic or not.
This “cold toddy” combination follows a simple rubric for a sour cocktail—spirits, lemon/lime and sugar—but also features a tea syrup that’s easy to make and store. The combination will come out akin to a boozy Arnold Palmer, or a simple whiskey sour variation with equal parts tea and lemon flavors.
Any tea will work well in this recipe, though it’s advised to stick to black teas and shy away from more subtle varieties like green, oolong or herbal teas, as their flavor profiles can be overpowered by the liquor and lemon. Lapsang souchong, a tea that’s traditionally smoked over cypress or pinewood fires, imparts more earthy, smoky flavors. Or, classic Earl Grey breakfast tea is a great option that provides enough backbone and tannin to stand out among the other, strongly flavored ingredients.
When choosing a whiskey, opt for something with a lighter, smoother flavor profile that won’t clash with or be muted by the tea and lemon. As in a traditional hot toddy, most Irish whiskeys will fall under this umbrella, like Jameson, Bushmills or Powers. If you want to dig deeper, Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey, The Whistler Calvados Finish and Kilbeggan Single Pot Still each bring notes of apple and fruit that can help liven up the ingredients in this drink.
One of the great things about this cocktail is that it’s best served when you’re in a mood — any mood, any time. Though a Cold Toddy might seem like a summer drink because it’s chilled, like a Moscow Mule it is perfectly at home on a cold winter’s night, around a fire, with blankets and snuggles. Even with ice bourbon has a warmth to it that not many other liquors can claim.
Not looking for a whiskey drink? Not a problem. The below recipe can easily be tailored to other spirits, and swapping vodka in place of whiskey creates a clean-tasting and refreshing drink that’s makes for a particularly tasty brunch companion.
How to Make a Cold Toddy
Black Tea Simple Syrup Recipe
Bring 1 cup water to simmer and remove from heat. Add four bags black tea, or one heaping tablespoon loose-leaf tea, and allow to steep at least 10 minutes. Remove teabags and return to low heat. Add 1 cup sugar and stir until completely dissolved and syrup turns clear. Pour into sealable container and allow to cool. Extra syrup will keep for up to two weeks refrigerated. Makes 1 pint.
Last Updated: August 15, 2023