To quote Rick Grimes in Harry Potter and the Legend of Korra: “Winter is coming.”
Before that happens, it’s best to preemptively store a paranoid amount of liquor and tea in your cupboard, liquor cabinet, under the floorboards, and next to ol’ Spot in the pet cemetery out back — you know, the usual hiding places.
Last winter, my best friend Jess and I headed to a local cafe to do schoolwork. Unfortunately, as it was a Sunday, the cafe was closed. We walked back to our cars in a state of dejection, only to be stopped on the sidewalk by a familiar bartender.
“I’m not supposed to open for another two hours,” he said. “But we have WiFi if you guys wanna do your school stuff at the pub.”
Fortunately, it being Sunday, bars were open. Church bells rang in the distance as he unlocked the pubs’s back door.
That’s life as a twenty-something in small-town Pennsylvania, for ya. It’s like Cheers without the punchline.
So anyway that’s how I ended up writing a paper at a bar at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It’s also the story of my first hot toddy. We wanted a breakfast drink, and the bartender did not disappoint.
A hot toddy is black tea, like Earl Grey or Darjeeling, brewed with a dark liquor. Whiskey and spiced dark rum are ideal for this cocktail. A bit of lemon adds a light sharpness that cuts through the darkness of the tea and liquor, and honey soothes and sweetens away any alcoholic burn. I like to add a bay leaf because it looks fancy (I’m only partially kidding: it complements the spicy undertones of the cocktail, too).
About a month after that fateful drunken morning, the little mountain home Jess and I shared was buried in snow. I was trapped for three days. At one point, as I was shoveling our sidewalk, a man skied past me in the middle of our street. Then a snowmobile followed. Then I followed, because I had nothing better to do. But I was drunk and couldn’t keep up. My legs are short, you know. I felt like a pug trying to run through a snowbank.
I drank nothing but hot toddies for those three days, and did nothing but shovel and listen to records. From what I remember, they were a good three days. Hot toddies will always be my winter drink of choice.
- 2 oz. liquor (spiced dark rum or whiskey)
- 1 bag of dark tea (Earl Grey or Darjeeling)
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 oz. water
Makes 1 cocktail
- Prepare the hot tea as per usual.
- Add lemon juice, honey, and bay leaf. Let steep for 2 minutes.
- Remove tea bag and bay leaf. Add liquor.
- Drink, rinse, and repeat until you’ve reached your desired level of intoxication.