Mixologists at Sable Kitchen and Bar craft two versions of hot toddies: the Architects and Kings and Loesser's Duet. | Photo by Jaydine Sayer
MAKE A HOT TODDY AT HOME
It can be made with bourbon, rum or brandy. It’s served in a mug, a glass or even a beer stein. There are a lot of variables, but one thing is certain: It’s hard to mess up a hot toddy.
Start by tailoring the drink to your tastebuds, suggests mixologist Bridget Albert, author of “Market-Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season.”
“I like bourbon because it has great baking spice notes already, like vanilla, caramel and nutmeg,” Albert says. And because the aromatics of alcohol are intensified when heated, Albert recommends mixing a strong tea — double-brewed — to stand up to the spirit. Add a dash of citrus to brighten up the flavor, too.
Here’s a recipe from Rhine Hall, the new West Town apple brandy distillery. Co-owner Jenny Solberg recommends drinking it out of a glass that you can cup your hand underneath to feel the heat of the drink. Rhine Hall serves its version in a footed rocks glass.
Tori’s Toddy at Rhine Hall
2 oz. cinnamon-infused brandy (or spirit of your choice)
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. hot ginger tea
lemon peel to garnish
Updated: February 4, 2014 6:03AM
The humble hot toddy is having a moment. Once known as a pungent drink served to salve the sick and the sniffly, renditions of the classic cocktail are now popping up on menus at buzzy, high-end bars and restaurants around the city.
While the classic cocktail trend has been going strong for several years, the hot toddy is the latest old-timer to get a makeover. In the last few weeks, bars with sophisticated drink programs have begun to serve inventive versions of the warm libation.
“Part of it is the temperature outside, but people are also reclaiming things that feel classic,” says Matt Sussman, managing partner at Table, Donkey and Stick, a hip Logan Square restaurant/bar fashioned after a rustic Alpine ski lodge. (Is there anything more hip than a Logan Square bar fashioned after a rustic Alpine ski lodge?)
In other words, this time of year offers a perfect confluence of circumstances to usher in a new wave of hot toddies. Revelers not only want a warmup, they also want to be blanketed with nostalgia.
But a traditional hot toddy (booze, hot water, lemon) just won’t do, especially in a city where mixologists make names for themselves by creating innovative drinks. For instance, at Table, Donkey and Stick, the hot toddy-inspired cocktail — called the Aviator — is made with Rittenhouse Rye whiskey, Kina l’Avion d’Or (an aperitif wine), Dolin rouge (a classic sweet vermouth), a Demerara brown sugar and cinnamon syrup, and house-made orange bitters.
There are four hot toddies on the new winter menu at Sable Kitchen & Bar in River North, known for its sophisticated cocktails. Two toddies are made with a whiskey or bourbon base, with lemon accents and specialty liqueurs. The other two are made with a combination of spirits (rum and sherry, whiskey and brandy) and coffee, a play on a more common toddy ingredient: tea.
Another place using coffee is the Dawson, a new restaurant/bar in River West. Its toddy is called the Sleepless in Logan Square. “I wanted to create an after-dinner drink perfect for sipping by our fireplace,” says Annemarie Sagoi, the Dawson’s bar director.
She uses local Bow Truss coffee, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Averna amaro (a potable bitter), Madeira and toasted house-made marshmallows infused with Fernet, a minty botanical. “Bourbon is the only traditional hot toddy ingredient I used,” says Sagoi. “I wanted the drink to be more unique, more luxurious and complex.”
There are a slew of other spots slinging bespoke hot toddies. Michelin-starred restaurant Sepia in the West Loop is serving two hot toddies, one cognac-based and one bourbon-based, to patrons at the bar and inside the eatery. (If you don’t see either on the menu you can still order it). Streeterville’s Italian spot Filini Bar & Restaurant has an Earl Grey version spiked with Bacardi Oakheart and in-season plum syrup.
Rodan, the long-standing Asian restaurant in Wicker Park, has five incarnations on its menu, including a sake-based toddy made with spiced orange tea ideal for a toasty nightcap.