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A Hot Toddy Cold Remedy

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Your nose is running, your throat is sore: you've got a cold. What you need is a hot toddy to make you feel better! One of the nicest things about a hot toddy is this lovely sounding name. The word toddy appears to be a corruption of the Hindu word tari, which is used for a sweet alcoholic drink made of palm sap. From there the word seems to have found its way to Scotland, where it is used by Robert Burns in a poem of 1785 to mean a generic alcoholic drink. Nowadays the word is almost always used as here, to describe a hot, sweetened drink of spirits and water.


  • 50ml/2 fl oz./3.5 tablespoons of strong alcohol such as:
    • Whisky - You don't need to blow your best single malt on this, and you probably wouldn't be able to appreciate it anyway. A supermarket blend will do just fine; the sort that in old cowboy films would be called 'gulpin' whisky'
    • Bourbon
    • Dark rum, such as Pusser's Rum, or even overproof Rum - although you probably don't need to use quite as much for the desired effect
    • Brandy
  • 50ml/2fl oz./3.5 tablespoons boiling water
  • Half a teaspoon of honey
  • A dash of lemon and a couple of cloves (both optional)


  1. Give this recipe to somebody else. If you have a partner, flatmate, parent, sibling or responsible offspring present - get them to go to the kitchen while you curl up under a blanket - you're poorly, remember?

  2. Place the alcohol in a container and stir the honey into the whisky.

  3. Add the boiling water (pouring it over the teaspoon to clean off the last of the honey).

  4. At this stage you may wish to pop it into a microwave to make sure it's really piping hot. Make sure the toddy is in a microwavable container and cook for no more than a minute or until it's fizzing and you can smell alcohol1.

  5. Add lemon and cloves to taste.

A hot toddy should be sipped very slowly allowing it to soothe your sore throat, clear your nose and relax your aching muscles. Clutching a thick whisky tumbler of steaming liquid looks and feels great, but, perhaps because of the volatile nature of the alcohol, it goes cold really quickly, and a cold hot toddy is pretty nasty. A pottery mug holds the heat better, but not by much. Best of all is one of those insulated mugs, preferably with a lid, which keeps it warm down to the last sip.

There are no grand medical claims attached to this recipe. Nobody says that it will cure your cold, and indeed alcohol can deplete your immune system, but a hot toddy may well make you feel a little better.

Please be aware that many over-the-counter cold cures should not be taken with alcohol, and so you should be careful about combining different forms of cold relief.

If you are taking certain prescription medicines or are breastfeeding, you may not be able to take over-the-counter cold remedies, but may be allowed the small amount of alcohol in this toddy. If you have any doubts, please check with your pharmacist or an appropriate health professional.

Find more ideas for cold remedies, and an alternative hot toddy, in the Entry on Prevention and Cures for Colds.

1Of course, if you're the cold sufferer making this, you won't be able to smell the alcohol, will you?

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