Lesson Two: Recipes

Chapter Eleven: Hot Hot Hot, aka The Whisky Toddy

Supporting Cast:
Tom and Jerry

Whisky Toddy

Scotch whisky grew up in a tough neighborhood. The Highlands of North Britain were desperately poor, fearsomely rugged, cold, and trackless. Life in the centuries of whisky’s youth—roughly, from the 1400s to the early 1800s—was hard, and the Highlanders had to be hard too. Their native drink, an illicitly distilled white lightning, was not for the faint of heart. And yet, necessity conspired with chance to ensure that this spirit was not without redeeming qualities. For one thing, it was made from pure malted barley, an expensive grain but the only one that would grow in the Highlands (in the industrial lowlands, all kinds of inferior stuff went into the stills). Since the only fuel available in quantity was peat, that’s what the barley had to be dried over, and that’s what fired the stills; its smoke thoroughly permeated the whisky. The stills themselves were small, because most distilling was illegal and a small still is easier to hide. The resulting whisky was a potent white spirit, reeking of smoke and aged only as long as it took the smugglers to bring it down out of the glens, but it was also sweet and rich and wonderfully warming.

Perhaps the most popular way this stuff was administered was in a Hot Toddy—with sugar, lemon peel, and boiling water. Prepared thus, the whisky would penetrate to every chilled nook and shivering cranny of the body, brushing it with its smoky warmth. These days, the Toddy has fallen out of popular favor. Pity, because it is the king of cold-weather drinks. For it to achieve its full therapeutic effect, though, it ought to be made with single-malt Scotch, preferably one at cask strength. And if it’s a really smoky one—a Talisker or even a Laphroaig—so much the better.

The drink is gratifyingly simple to prepare, but there is a bit of ritual involved.

Lemon peel
1 teaspoon raw sugar (even better, one of the large cubes of demerara sugar that are available at gourmet stores)
2 ounces single-malt Scotch

First, bring a kettle of water to boil. In the meantime, cut a largish twist of the lemon peel and keep it at the ready, along with the raw sugar and the Scotch (which you have already measured out).

When the water boils, fill a heavy earthenware mug about halfway with water, swirl it around a bit, and pour it out. If you do this, your drink will stay warm considerably longer than if you don’t.

Now quickly pour the whisky into the mug, add the sugar and lemon peel, and top off with 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 ounces of the boiling water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and have at it.

Substitutions: for the whisky, dark, full-bodied rum (in which case you might want to substitute a lump of butter about the size of a large peanut for the lemon peel, thus creating the New England classic, Hot Buttered Rum), or straight rye whiskey (in which case it’s a Columbia Skin); for the sugar, honey.

Tom and Jerry

An American holiday essential from the 1830s through the 1960s, the Tom and Jerry still hangs on in the Midwest, where folks have a healthy respect for tradition and aren’t afraid of a little milk fat, egg, and alcohol. Properly prepared, there are few things more festive than a steaming mug of Tom and Jerry or three. This should serve at least twenty-four (or twelve Anglo-Saxons).

1 dozen eggs
1 cup sugar
4 ounces cognac
1/2 ounce vanilla extract (optional)
1 bottle cognac
1 bottle dark full-bodied rum
2 quarts hot milk
To finish: freshly grated nutmeg

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites into stiff peaks (this will take a while). Combine the yolks with 1 cup sugar and beat them until they are completely smooth, gradually incorporating the 4 ounces of cognac and, if you’re so inclined, the vanilla. Carefully fold the whites into the yolks.

To serve, put a heaping tablespoon of this batter in a small mug or tumbler and stir in 1 ounce each of cognac and dark, full-bodied rum (the cognac and rum can be premixed if you anticipate serving a lot of these). Fill to the top with hot milk, stir until you get foam, and sprinkle a little grated nutmeg on top.

Hot Toddy

Ryan Demonstrates How To Make a Hot Toddy.

Hot Toddy
In coffee cocktail mug add;
1.5 oz of Blended Scotch
Fill almost to the top with water
Add 1/4 oz Honey
Stir thoroughly
Garnish with a clove studded lemon wheel

Reproduced from “Killer Cocktails” by David Wondrich.