Honey in History: The Hot Toddy

Honey and Tea

It's a cold weather favorite that has stood the test of time, but do you know the history of the hot toddy? Where did the popular recipe originate? Who is credited with its invention? Who was the tasty beverage created for? We did a little digging into the beloved drink, and what we found is......well, nobody really knows for sure.

The hot toddy as we know it today consists of some sort of spirit base, some spices, a sweetener of choice (of course, we prefer honey), and some form of hot liquid such as water, tea or even cider. But the hot toddy of the past has ties to various countries, cultures, traditions and even time periods.

Some believe that the hot toddy orginiates from 1610s British-controlled India. According to dictionary.com, the Hindi word "taddy" refers to a "beverage made from fermented palm sap." It is believed that the official written recipe came in 1786 and was defined as a "beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices." It is said that the popular recipe made its way from India to the United Kingdom.[1]

Others claim that the drink owes credit to 18th-century Scottish doctors who prescribed it as medicine. It is written that the sweetener and spices were added to mask the flavor of the raw scotch given to cold symptom sufferers.[2]

Anyone familiar with scotch knows of its strong smoky flavor, which is why some believe that the watered-down, sweetened and spiced recipe was created as a "sweeter-tasting alternative for ladies" in 1700s Scotland.[3]

The last origin story we found refers to Robert Bentley Todd, a mid-19th-century doctor who prescribed his patients a "cure-all" mix of "brandy, canella (white cinnamon), sugar and hot water."[4]

Whatever its history, it is certain that the hot toddy has cemented its place as a favorite recipe, popular the world over. In fact, by 1837 the Burlington Free Press heralded the drink as the cure-all for the common cold¹ and even Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner is known to have treated ailments with it (per his niece).²

We believe that the hot toddy's versatility and flavor possibilities have been key to its reigning popularity (much like honey); ask a variety of bartenders for a hot toddy and you will get a variety of beverages. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the recipe is its reflection of its local setting, for example, order a hot toddy in Ireland and you will enjoy a warm Irish whiskey drink, order in Scotland and get a scotch drink, and order in the American South and enjoy a bourbon drink (it almost makes you think of that Chumbawamba song: "He drinks a Whiskey drink, he drinks a Vodka drink...").

Now however you like to enjoy your hot toddy, we happen to like ours with a little orange flare and all the yummy stuff, like orange-flavored tea, brandy, orange liqueur, and, of course, sweet honey. Did you know that honey helps mask and bring out the flavor notes of other ingredients in recipes? Which is why it is great for balancing cocktails like our citrusy delicious Honey Toddy.


  • 1 orange-flavored tea bag
  • boiling water
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 oz. premium orange liqueur
  • 1 oz. brandy
  • orange slices

Place an orange-flavored tea bag in a mug and add boiling water, 3/4 full. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes.
Remove the tea bag and add the honey, brandy and orange liqueur. Garnish with orange slices.

Do you have a favorite hot toddy recipe? We'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!


[1] Hines, Nick. The History of the Hot Toddy. Vinepair: https://vinepair.com/articles/history-of-hot-toddy/

[2] Eschner, Kat. The Hot Toddy: A “Medicinal” Drink That Might Actually Work. Smithsonian: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hot-toddy-medicinal-drink-might-actually-work-180961714/

[3] History of the Hot Toddy. Make Me a Cocktail: https://makemeacocktail.com/blog/history-of-the-hot-toddy/

[4] Plummer, Todd. A Brief History of the Hot Toddy, Winter’s Favorite Drink. Town and Country Magazine: https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/drinks/a9048/hot-toddy-history-origin/