The Hot Toddy
About a week ago, on one of the first cool Saturdays since, oh, January or so, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s. I had taken advantage of the almost-cool-enough (but not really) weather to wear my very favorite, very orange wool cardigan. A store employee approached me in the produce aisle as I hefted a Kabocha squash.
“I just love that sweater,” she said. “That color. It’s a great seasonal!”
Everyone loves a compliment, right? I smiled and wrapped that one around myself while searching for a ripe Hass in a pyramid of rock-hard avocados. Deftly executing a Jenga-type maneuver to pluck out the only one from the middle of the stack without letting them all tumble to the floor, I heard the same employee a few feet away extolling pumpkin-spice-flavored pumpkin seeds to another customer. “They’re a great seasonal!” she chirped.
Well, so much for being special. As I tromped past the many, many seasonal product displays, I reminded myself that the towers of pumpkin butter, pumpkin waffles and frozen miniature pumpkin pies would pass, but my orange sweater would stick around. No matter the season.
This cocktail is a seasonal classic, updated. Smoky, warm and rich, it will hug you like your favorite sweater.
1 ounce whiskey or brandy
2 tablespoons honey
Mix your spirit of choice with the honey, squeeze in the lemon, add hot water to taste and stir.
1 ounce rye whiskey
1 1/2 ounces applejack
1 teaspoon green Chartreuse
4 ounces double-strength Lapsang Souchong tea
1 tablespoon mesquite honey
Set your kettle to boil and get out two cups and a tea infuser. Measure and mix the three spirits together in your favorite cup, and measure double the usual amount of tea into the teaball – the rule of thumb is one teaspoon per 6 ounces of water, so for this drink, use two teaspoons – and get it ready to steep in the other cup. When the kettle boils, pour in 6 ounces of water and let the tea steep for five minutes. When it’s done, pour 4 ounces of the tea into the cup with the rye, applejack and Chartreuse, then add the honey, stir and drink.
Lapsang Souchong gets its campfire flavor from being dried over wood fires rather than simply air-drying, like most black tea. (Locally, you can find it at Infusion or the Spice & Tea Exchange.) The smoky essence of the tea gives this rye cocktail a Scotch-like aroma, without squandering precious single-malt, and that rich smoky flavor coordinates perfectly with applejack, a brandy made of apple cider aged to a bourbon-like sweetness. (Coincidentally, Laird & Co., until recently the only licensed distillers of applejack in the U.S., holds the very first commercial distilling license issued in America. Almost a hundred years after they set up shop, George Washington wrote to the Lairds asking for their recipe.) Mesquite honey also has a smoky, piney taste, and green Chartreuse, as always, lends a sharper herbal note. If it’s altogether too much smoke, add hot water until it’s right for you.