Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hot Toddy Time

I've often joked about being a "Hapa Hillbilly" - a half-Japanese, half-Scottish gal from the hills of West Virginia. (Well, in truth, it's more the Ohio River Valley than the hills, but saying that you're from the valley in West Virginia is as romantic as admitting that you’re from The Valley in Southern California.)

I've paid homage to my kimono-clad side with posts about my cooking class at the Japanese Buddhist Church and memories of my Tokyo-born mother. The hillbilly emerges when I talk about my love for beans and greens from Cracker Barrel; my quest for the perfect cole slaw-slathered, West Virginia-style hot dog; pitchers of iced sweet tea; pots of cabbage rolls and adventures in all-you-can-eat dining with Daddy.

But the Scottish roots? Not so much. Unlike my kilt-wearing, bagpipe playing brother, I haven't embraced the customs or foods of my father's side of the family.

So when a friend, who lived in Scotland for two years, offered to make a hot toddy for me, I immediately accepted. At last I'd found a Scottish tradition that I could wrap my cold hands around.

I think both the Irish and the Scots like to take credit for inventing the hot toddy. I for one would wager it was a fiendishly frugal Scotsman who found a way to stretch a shot of whiskey into eight ounces of comfort.

When I googled "hot toddy," I expected to find hundreds of variations, but the combinations are simple and limited.

To make a hot toddy, pick your poison from the list below (I've placed an asterisk by my choice):

  • Something hard: Whiskey OR bourbon* OR brandy
  • Something sweet: Sugar OR honey*
  • Something hot: Hot water* OR favorite tea
  • Something sour: Lemon juice (from 1/4 lemon) and lemon slice* OR orange juice and orange slice

Pour a shot or two of bourbon into one of those clear glass mugs or use a regular mug if you don't own one. Add sweetener, lemon juice, hot water and lemon slice.

If you're feeling daring, stud that lemon slice with cloves.

Drink this: When you're curled up by a fire with a good book or a good friend; when you feel the first signs of a cold, flu or cough; when you need a little help falling asleep; or when you want to get in touch with your inner Highlander.

(And for two more hot, delicious drinks, visit the Restless Chef.)