Before there was Theraflu

It’s true, they used to use alcohol for pretty much everything. Tim was reading to me this weekend, an account of the beginnings of coffee and tea shops in Europe. That before people had coffee and tea, they just drank alcohol all the time, since the conditions of the water often rendered it undrinkable. The premise of the article was that coffee shops not only provided a stimulant rather than depressive drink, but also a place for people to gather and discuss important ideas — hence, the invention of coffee and tea as social drinks just preceded the Enlightenment (I knew I drank coffee for a reason! The next Enlightenment could happen at our neighborhood Nameless Coffee Shop).

But now? We don’t really do all-day alcohol without an impending intervention. Because now, we have pharmaceutical companies other options. Our water must be filtered and still has toxic levels of flouride is safer. The only real reason to crack open a bottle of spirits is for enjoyment, right?

Not so fast. Enter the Hot Toddy.

I discovered this drink many years ago, in Athens, Georgia. I’d had a girls’ night planned for a while — meeting up with friends Hillary and Dana at The Manhattan, the hipster-divey place we went for drinks before there was Trappeze. The night was planned, I had been duly excited, but somewhere had picked up a nasty chest cold. My cough was rattly, my head felt like my brain had been loosed from its moorings and was rolling around free in its un-padded casing. But it was GIRL’S NIGHT. It was NOT TO BE CANCELED. I would go, and I would have fun. With the girls.

So I went; and on the chalkboard at the bar, was a drink special: a hot toddy, for $3.

And it was wonderful. It was warm, soothing, and fully enabled me to fulfill that planned desire for girl chatter. I asked the bartender how she made it, and it has now become my go-to concoction when my immune chips are down. Which just happens to be this week.

I usually drink this in the evening, after dinner (I still don’t want to drink bourbon at 10am, no matter how congested I feel). There are no doubt countless variations of this whiskey-laden medicinal cocktail, but this one is so easy, and as one of my Book Club friends said when we made them last weekend, you can’t really put both honey and lemon in something and it not be good.

Now, if I could just figure out how to legally get it into my kids…


Hot Toddy
makes one serving

  • one shot-glass of bourbon whiskey
  • freshly-boiled water
  • honey, to taste
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste

Put on a kettle of water to boil. Pour a shot of bourbon into a mug, and add a couple teaspoons of honey. Squeeze in about a teaspoon of lemon juice. When water boils, remove from heat and pour over bourbon. Stir, taste, and add more honey/lemon juice as needed. Sip slowly, preferably under a thick quilt with a book in-hand.



This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS.

12 thoughts on “Before there was Theraflu

  1. I once read (Jennifer Michael Hecht, The Happiness Myth) that the reason society started frowning upon various drugs and alcohol is that our daily tasks and values have changed. Perhaps one could ride a horse or walk with a buzz, but driving a car or operating industrial machines with a buzz just won’t work! It’s an interesting thought, to me at least!

    Anyway, the hot toddy looks like a perfect warm up for a cold day when one has the sniffles. Great idea.

    1. Ha! That’s great — so, as long as I’m just baking bread and wiping noses all day (hopefully not at the same time) then I am free to partake? (I’ll just make sure I leave the vacuum in the closet…)

  2. I am a total believer in hot toddies. My great-grandma used to make them, and really believed in whiskey/bourbon as a curative. I usually make them with tea, as it also provides a little pick-me-up. And honestly, I can drink them when I’m sick, or when I’m just really really sick of winter.

    1. Hannah, tea is a great idea! Might as well get some echinacea in with the bourbon while I’m sipping.

      And oh. Oh, how I am sick of winter. I want to fold time right over the month of February, and get these poor snot-nosed kids (and their mentally-fragile mother) out of the house.

  3. Now I have that Usher/Jay-Z song in my head (I’m so cold, I need a hot tottie ).

    My mom made us a very similar drink (alcohol included) when we were little and under the weather. It might not have been legal, but we felt better and slept *really* well.

    Do you have a particular brand of liquor that you’re fond of?

    1. Ok, that’s great. I’ll consider it — after all, they *do* get vanilla extract (i.e., vanilla-flavored vodka) in their hot chocolate…

      I like the Kentucky bourbons: Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek. Not sure why, probably just familiarity.

    2. I am sitting here with my 2-year-old on day three of her fever and all I could think as I read this was, “Hmm. I wonder…” The final sentence made me laugh out loud because it was just what I had in my head. And, Angie, I think I love your mom.

  4. Remind me to tell you the story of the time I drank my first “hot toddy”, (I was 18 years old). It is funny.

    I am praying that the kids and YOU feel much better really soon.

  5. I drink a “hot tropical lemonade” – add a little coconut oil to your hot toddy. (I do it without alcohol, but I think that might be about to change….) The coconut oil helps ward off colds!

    1. No, that sounds amazing. I’ll be in that neck of the woods in May, if all goes according to plan. But I certainly hope I won’t need a hot toddy by then.

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