How To Make a Classic Hot Toddy

updated Nov 28, 2022
How to Make a Classic Hot Toddy

A step-by-step recipe for making a classic hot toddy with lemon and honey.

Makes1 (8-ounce) drink

Prep5 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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hot toddies garnished with star anise and lemon circles
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

This recipe is part of Kitchn 100 — the hundred recipes you need right now. Check out all of the amazing dishes, from Kitchn and beyond, here.

As we transition from winter to spring, you better believe the hot toddy is staying in my cocktail rotation. The warming, citrusy cocktail got me through this final stretch of cold weather, and while some people turn to hot toddies to soothe a sore throat or ease a stuffy nose, I simply enjoy them because they’re delicious.

This step-by-step recipe will guide you through making a cozy hot toddy that packs a serious punch. It’s made with just four ingredients and comes together in no time. Let’s get started!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What’s the Best Spirit for a Hot Toddy?

I almost always make my hot toddies with bourbon. It has a sweet vanilla flavor that pairs nicely with the honey, and its subtle caramel notes give the drink a rich, alluring flavor. But you can use pretty much any brown spirit you like — brandy or whiskey are great options, too. According to The Wine Enthusiast, “The best whiskey to use in a hot toddy is the one you have on hand,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a super-flexible cocktail that’s virtually impossible to mess up.

Read more: What’s the Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon?

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Why Is it Called a Hot Toddy?

While the origins of the cocktail are widely disputed, one theory is that the drink started in British-occupied India. It’s believed that the word toddy comes from the the Hindi word “taddy,” which translates to a “beverage made from fermented palm sap.” By 1786, taddy was officially defined as a “beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices.” In Ireland, the drink is also called a hot whiskey.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

3 Tips for Making the Best Hot Toddy

Before you cozy up and make your hot toddy, keep these tips in mind.

1. Preheat your mug with warm water. To ensure your hot toddy stays warm for as long as possible, preheat your mug before you make your cocktail. To do so, add hot water to the mug and let it sit for about five minutes, then pour it out.

2. Don’t skimp on the garnishes. Because the drink itself is so simple, I like to go heavy on the garnishes. My favorite way to garnish a hot toddy is with a lemon slice, cinnamon stick, and whole star anise — but lemon twists, cloves, and whole cranberries all make beautiful garnishes, too.

3. Adjust the recipe to your tastes. There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for a hot toddy, so feel free to adjust the ingredient amounts to your tastes. Like your drinks on the sweeter side? Increase the honey! Want it to be boozier? Double the bourbon.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell
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Here's how to make the best hot toddy.

How to Make a Classic Hot Toddy

A step-by-step recipe for making a classic hot toddy with lemon and honey.

Prep time 5 minutes

Makes 1 (8-ounce) drink

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    (3 tablespoons) bourbon or other dark spirit, such as brandy, whiskey, or dark rum

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 3/4 cup


  • Optional garnishes: cinnamon stick, star anise pod


  • Small saucepan or tea kettle

  • Knife and cutting board

  • Measuring spoons and cups

  • Spoon

  • 8-ounce mug


  1. Heat the mug. Fill an 8-ounce mug with hot water (tap water will be fine). Let sit for about 5 minutes, then pour the water out.

  2. Juice and slice the lemon. Cut 1 medium lemon in half. Squeeze the juice from one half into a small bowl. Measure out 2 teaspoons juice and add it to the mug. Cut a thin slice from the remaining lemon half and remove any seeds.

  3. Add the spirit and honey. Add 1 1/2 ounces bourbon and 1 tablespoon honey to the mug.

  4. Boil the water. Bring 3/4 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the water comes to a simmer, turn the heat off. (Alternatively, use an electric tea kettle and bring it to a boil.)

  5. Dissolve the honey. Pour the hot water into the mug and stir until the honey is completely dissolved.

  6. Garnish the drink. Garnish the drink with the lemon slice, cinnamon stick, and star anise (if using). Serve immediately.