Yesteryear’s Memories: Time for a Hot Toddy

November 16, 2021

When the chill of cooler days begins to make us look for our winter coats and dig out those gloves and stocking caps, there are other creature comforts that come to mind. Hot chocolate is great, as well as a steaming hot bowl of chili. There is nothing like a hot toddy, though, for beating winter blahs.

These drinks have been around for centuries and have changed over time and distance, but basically consist of hot water, some spices, and some form of alcohol. They’ve been made with Scotch, Rye, rum, well-water, honey, cinnamon, lemon, nutmeg, clove, brown sugar, and who-knows-what-else. One surprising thing, though, is how they used to be heated. In 1820, they didn’t just pop a pan of water on the gas range. Microwaves didn’t appear for another 150 years. Leave it to some clever 18th century drinkers to come up with a solution.

A blacksmith forged a small piece of equipment especially for the job. At one end is a handle; the other was thicker to hold more heat. It was heated up in the fire just like a branding iron — and when inserted into the cup of water and alcohol and spices or lemon — presto! The mixture quickly frothed up and took on the heat of the toddy iron.

This concoction was almost magical to the 18th century drinker. It was said to cure colds, fevers, and more than once declared to bring an end to winter blues along with causing the drinker to sing. Even when they couldn’t really sing.

Toddy irons are pretty hard to find these days, but if you spot one, give it a try. The drink may not cure a cold, but it sure will make it easier to tolerate. It might just give you courage, grow hair on your chest, and it’s cheaper than singing lessons.

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