I went to the grocery store yesterday, which is a frequent but not especially momentous occurrence. But this was my shopping list:
Because my name is Sicky McGee.
For the second time in two months, I am wrestling with that unpleasant affliction known as “the common cold.”
(By the way, I’m not totally sure what the celery is for. Maybe I thought I would make soup. Or perhaps a medieval poultice sounded like a good idea. Who can know.)
The good news is that I found an elixir that cures most ills — or, given a strong enough dose, leaves you where you just don’t care so much anymore.
Well, yes, there’s Nyquil.
But I really mean a hot toddy.
First I’d ever heard of a hot toddy was sitting in the TGI Friday’s near Rockefeller Center in the winter of 2000. My friend Heather was miserably ill and we had given up fighting the crowds to see our first live lighting of the Rock Center Christmas tree. She asked the waiter to bring honey and lemon with her hot tea, which wasn’t so unusual. Then she mentioned that adding some liquor transformed it into something called a hot toddy — well, I never.
Fast forward to November 2011. I was sick and catching up on the Ken Burns documentary “Prohibition.” It’s a sad confession that six hours of hearing about people not drinking really made me want to. I was also mindlessly thumbing through a cookbook, when Nigella Lawson swept in like an angel to the rescue. There it was in bold print, a hot toddy recipe!
I combined the hot water, lemon and honey with a shot of whiskey, and it was warm and sweet and lemony and smooth. Wouldn’t you know, the next morning I felt remarkably better. Remarkably.
My mom says my grandfather swore by hot toddies to cure what ails, and now I’m on the bandwagon. I don’t advocate binge drinking them, but I do believe that in moderation the alcohol serves some medicinal purpose.
The interwebs say that hot toddies are any type of mixed drink, alcohol or no, that are served warm, in the winter and to aid against sickness. So, mulled cider and other, similar hot beverages all count. The traditional hot toddy is a mix of hot water, whisky and honey or sugar. There’s even a southern version that replaces hot water with tea, which would be delicious. I definitely prefer a lemon and honey component, especially to soothe the throat. If you don’t want the alcohol, try my hot lemon ginger tea as a good substitute. I’m not a huge fan of cinnamon or the other mulling spices, but you could also throw in some cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, etc., if you wish. In place of whiskey, use bourbon, cognac, rum, brandy. Make your concoction your own.
As we soldier on through these winter months and you find yourself fighting that blessed virus, I hope you’ll fix yourself a hot toddy and enjoy.
1/4 cup water
Combine the water, liquor, lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan and heat to warm
Strain into a mug or teacup and add honey to taste. Sip slowly and savor.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “Hot Toddy,” found in Nigella Express.