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Hot toddies for winter

November 2011 

hot toddiesWinter is coming fast now and there are all sorts of reasons why you might be thinking of making a hot toddy.

A hot toddy is usually a drink containing several ingredients of which one is alcoholic. They can be made from one of the traditional recipes such as the hot toddy based on whisky, boiling water, honey and lemon which is very popular for those suffering from cold and flu symptoms or sore throats, or they can be based around a range of ingredients just for a lovely warming drink in cold weather.

Mulled wine is of course a traditional favourite, but there are a range of great recipe ideas based around gin, rum, cider and most alcoholic beverages. Often a few spices or herbs such as cloves or cinnamon are added to give extra flavour.

However, one of the most common myths about hot toddies is that because they are heated, most of the alcohol has been evaporated out.

Alcohol boils at a much lower temperature than water – at just 173 degrees Fahrenheit compared with 212 degrees Fahrenheit for water. But even if you bring the liquid up to boiling point, it will take a while for all the alcohol to evaporate, and so the alcoholic content of a hot toddy depends very much on how much you originally included and how much you have heated it too.

Interesting, a drink with alcohol that has been heated briefly will retain more alcohol than a drink that has been heated over time, even if neither actually reached boiling point.

An interesting study done in America showed that simmering recipes with alcohol in them for two and a half hours left just five per cent of the original alcohol; while alcohol added to a boiling liquid and then removed immediately retained 85 per cent of its alcohol.

These days, with the drink driving laws and increasing numbers of people not drinking alcohol, you can also find hot toddies that do not include alcohol.

Just like “mocktails” instead of “cocktails”, there is now a range of ideas to make delicious winter drinks that emulate traditional hot toddies but without the alcoholic content. Using the basics of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and lemon, you can create different drinks based around hot tea, hot lemonades and other soft drinks.

One of the nice thing about hot toddies is the way they are served – usually in a thick glass. Glass is likely to crack if you suddenly fill it with very hot or boiling liquid and today you can buy specially strengthened glass made specifically for hot drinks. However, if using more standard home glasses, then be sure to warm up the glass first to at least room temperature. Pour the hot liquid in slowly and one trick that is said to work is to place a metal spoon in the empty glass before pouring in the hot liquid to stop the glass cracking.

Hot toddies are a traditional part of winter, and seem to be coming back into fashion. More and more bars and restaurants are serving hot toddies; the web has a host of ideas and recipes and there are also special hot toddy recipes books available.

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