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Get it Right: Hot Toddy Perfection

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HOT TODDIES are those drinks you get when you’re cold or when you have a cold,” says Keith Emms. “You want something strong, you want something hot, you want something a little bit spicy.”

That middle one is most essential to Keith, Tastemeister at Global Flavors. “So many times with Hot Toddies you order one and it’s lukewarm.”

“Temperature is one of the ingredients, you need to treat it as such — it says it in the name.”

To achieve the desired temperature, Keith ensures that everything — not only the water — is hot.

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“You want to get your tools as hot as possible. You want your ingredients as hot as possible. You want to get the glass as hot as possible,” he says.

Where many people rely solely on the hot water to do the job, Keith goes a step further.

Using two metal mixing tins, one nestled within the other, he fills the larger one with enough hot water that the second, smaller tin floats in the heated bath.

That creates an ad-hoc bain-marie in which the drink can be built.

“At the end of the day, the Hot Toddy is going to be an eight-ounce drink at most.

“And if half of those things that the drink touches are not hot, you’re shooting yourself in the foot from the outset.”

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For the toddy itself, Keith takes a straightforward approach to ingredients, offering both bourbon – and brandy-based options.

“It’s not necessarily the driver of the drink,” he says of the base spirit, noting that he also remains largely brand-indifferent when it comes to the recipe.

“The important thing here is using something that’s strong that’ll stand up through the drink.”


In addition to the typically prescribed lemon juice component, Keith employs a ginger syrup for a spicy kick and a signature cardamom-coriander syrup that adds both sweetness and baking spice notes to the mixture.

Lastly, he garnishes the hot drink with an orange twist and a torched cinnamon stick for a pop of color and an aromatic flourish.

“It’s sort of the expected garnish,” admits Keith, “but it brings a nice nose to everything.”

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Beyond temperature and ingredients, the size of the drink is a crucial element for Keith, who serves his version in a relatively diminutive eight-ounce tempered glass that’s been preheated with hot water.

“It should pack a punch,” he says, eschewing the pint-glass pour that the drink often arrives in. “You don’t want to be sitting on a Hot Toddy for 45 minutes, you want to drink it and move on.”

Until next time… Happy Distilling!


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