Hot Toddies for Cold Nights

The cold is settling in quickly this year and a brutal winter is predicted across the country. The prevailing theory is that scores of couples will hole up indoors, cozying up to one another and finding ways to entertain themselves that don't involve venturing forth into the snow-covered wastelands.

Unfortunately, that's not an option for most Americans, with work, friends, groceries and other assorted needs to make trips out into the frigid tundra. Which means the focus is often more on defrosting than on generating heat of a different sort.

To speed this process and ensure couples maintain the proper mood this winter, it's imperative for matched pairs (singles are fine, too) everywhere to learn to make a proper Hot Toddy.

Sure, they sound quaint and even kitschy – better suited for a Moose Lodge than today's cosmopolitan couples. But these powerful potions have the power to bring warmth to even the most frozen heart – clearing the way for blizzard-borne hijinks.

Hot Toddys have their roots in Scotland, though much debate rages as to whether the name's origin stems from an Indian term brought over by the British East India company or from a poet's joking reference to whiskey.

Regardless of the source of the name, these potables have impressive warming qualities – traditionally combining whiskey, hot water and honey with various spices like cloves, cinnamon and cardamom with citrus like lemon or oranges.

Once believed to help cure colds and the flu, now they're just used as warming draughts, often just in time for bed. And now that mixologists have gotten their hands on the formula, the modern hot toddy provides a rich palette for experimentation.

Below are just a few hot toddy recipes that can ward off the chill in any relationship this winter.

Traditional Hot Toddy: Warm and comforting, the original hot toddy keeps things simple and straightforward, using the natural sweetness and warmth of honey and whiskey combined with the citrus tang of lemon in a steaming hot mug of joy. The flavors are muted and gentle, harmonizing impressively and delivering just the right level of boozy impact needed to thaw out even the most weary bones.

1 oz. whiskey (it may be blasphemy to the Scottish, but the sweetness of Irish or Canadian whiskey works best in a Toddy)

1 tbsp. honey

1 cup hot water

Juice of half a lemon

1 cinnamon stick

Pour the honey into a mug and add the whiskey and lemon juice. Pour the boiling hot water on top and stir with the cinnamon stick to combine. Then head for the couch and see what sparks may fly.

Gin Toddy: Believe it or not, gin isn't just for summer. The herbal punch of a good London Dry can clear out the cobwebs in a big way, especially when served up in a potent mix of sugar, spice and heat. The Gin Toddy delivers a bracing punch mellowed by sugar and complex holiday aromas and flavors that bring comfort and joy in so very many ways. Plus, with a higher concentration of alcohol than a traditional toddy, this steaming spirit chases all cares away in a hurry.

2 oz. London Dry Gin (Bulldog packs a beautiful juniper wallop and an amazing bouquet when heated)

Juice of half a lemon

2 oz. boiling water

1 tbsp. sugar or 1/2 tbsp agave nectar

1 tsp. whole cloves

Combine the liquid ingredients in a goblet and add the cloves to steep for a few minutes. If you don't want them floating around use a tea ball or make a sachet out of cheesecloth and remove after 5 minutes. Otherwise leave them in for a more intense clove flavor.

Brandy Toddy: One of the richest and most warming drinks available, brandy combines the heat of a distilled spirit with the warmth of great wine. And why not add to its warming power by mixing it into a great warm cocktail designed expressly to create a little romance as thoughts turn toward ice and snow? The sweet richness of a brandy toddy brings forth a host of spices and flavors, incorporating oolong tea, lavender, vanilla and citrus in a mixture sure to cure whatever may ail you.

2 oz. brandy

5 oz. simple syrup

4 oz. boiling water

1 vanilla pod

1/2 tsp. dried lavender

2 inch x 2 inch piece of orange peel

1 tbsp. Oolong tea

Add the dry ingredients to a cheesecloth sachet and put in the bottom of a snifter or mug. Add the rest of the ingredients over the sachet and let it steep until fragrant. Remove the sachet, give the drink a hearty stir, kick back and watch the fireworks. They'll be well worth the effort.