The Science Behind the Sip: Handcraft a Hot Toddy to Cure What Ails You

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Today is National Hot Toddy day, so if you’re feeling under the weather, we give you permission to raid your liquor cabinet. No, really – while there’s no cure for the common cold, the ingredients in this steamy sip can help treat the symptoms.

The traditional hot toddy recipe calls for a mug of hot water, a spoonful of honey, a squeeze of lemon, and a stiff pour of your favorite whiskey. Each of these components has its own benefits – but adding just one or two more can help you curate a cocktail perfect for your particular affliction.

They might not be a Z-pack, but we’re taking our chances with these more traditional (read: delicious) remedies.  Here’s a break down of what you need to craft a homemade hot toddy, and why different ingredients can help you get healthy.

The Traditional Ingredients

1. Whiskey

Bourbon is a natural decongestant – so for a stuffy nose or sinuses, bourbon can be your best friend. Alcohol dilates your blood vessels, which will help heal irritated mucus membranes in your nose. The more blood flow to the area, the easier it is to deal with an infection or inflammation. While we love 1792 Single Barrel, the bourbon in your toddy is a matter of personal preference. Pick your favorite and get to feeling better.

2. Honey 

Ancient Egyptians used honey as a natural wound covering – it physically coats a scratchy sore throat to heal it sooner. In addition, local honey contains pollen that, over time, may help build up an immunity to seasonal allergies in your area. Drink enough toddies and the sniffles might not hit you so hard next year.

3. Hot Water

While this isn’t a particularly exciting ingredient, steamy water can help clear your sinuses and makes a toddy a comforting drink to help with shakes or chills.

4. Lemon (or any citrus fruit)

No need to wait till you’re calling in sick – if you feel a cold coming on, head it off with plenty of vitamin C. Citrus fruits are full of it, and the squeeze of lemon juice to your toddy can lessen the duration or severity of your sniffles. This method only works if you use it in advance – so drink up even if you’re not certain you’re getting sick.

The Optional Ingredients

1. Ginger Root

This spicy yet sweet root is perfect to add to your toddy when cold and flu season gives you the full court press. Ginger has long been used as a natural cure for nausea, so add a little if you feel sick to your stomach on top of a cold. Steep a teaspoon of grated ginger root in your boiling water, then strain before adding the rest of your ingredients.

2. Mint

Muddle and steep a few mint leaves in your toddy water for a julep-inspired cocktail that can help you breathe easier. Mint is known for supporting digestion, and the menthol found in mint can help clear your airways in the same way Vick’s does.

3. Tea Leaves

Rather than use plain boiling water, grab your favorite teabag to help make a hot toddy your own. Chamomile tea can help you drift off to sleep, while green tea can put a little pep in your step. This is an easy way to up your toddy game – no prep or fresh herbs, just a cup of tea with a shot of your favorite whiskey.