I remember the first time I heard the phrase, “Let me make you a hot toddy.” But I can’t count the number of times it’s been spoken since. Having been raised in Wisconsin, where winters are serious about bringing down the national average for temperature and hoisting it for snow, hearing the toddy talk wasn’t a rare occurrence. In fact, it was customary to walk into most anyone’s home and realize that within the chunk of time it took you to pull off your snow boots, mittens, scarves, hats, parka and the two extra pair of pants you wore on top of your true chosen outfit for the day, you were being sized up for sickness on the North Woods Symptom Scale.
1. Nose running? Chances are it’s just the icy air effect.
2. Cheeks red? A quick hug and a brush of skin while doing so would instantly reveal whether or not you sported ruby spots from frigid temps or fever.
3. Eyes glazed? Were you by chance in an impromptu snowball fight just before reaching the door and got walloped with a flawless aim to the back of the head? Perfectly reasonable.
4. Coughing? Interminable smoke from the belching wood stove can take anyone a minute or two to get used to after being outside in air so dry it crackles.
5. Lethargic? Regardless of how many air-activated ten hour hand and foot warmers you strategically insert into your clothing, if your blood is running through your veins without a quart of antifreeze in it, you will be sluggish until you thaw.
If North Woods logic failed to explain away your symptoms, you’d likely next hear those beautiful words (in quotes above) uttered in any variety of flat, vowel-stretching, Lutheran-influenced accents that make up the region’s settlers. Your answer?
“Hot toddy? Hot diggidy!”
This nifty nightcap has been long touted for its medicinal benefits by nursemaids, mothers and master distillers of spirits. Sadly, monetary funding by government health organizations for in depth research remains tragically low, forcing thousands to use their own discretionary funds to purchase the ingredients for making the elixir and then collecting personal data on its efficacy.
The typical concoction contains the following ingredients:
– a spirit (whisk(e)y, brandy, rum, etc.)
– a sweetener (sugar or honey)
– a warm base (usually boiling water or warm milk)
– spices or flavorings (cinnamon, cloves, lemon or orange peel)
There are myriad variations that are only limited by one’s imagination, so dabble away.
If you’re searching for the elusive Hot Toddy History and all its possible beginnings, I can offer up no better site than this link. You’ll learn so much your eyes may begin bleeding. It’s exhaustive and complete, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Sadly, three people in my family are currently suffering from some form of cold or flu or both. As two of them are firmly under the age of 21, I shall contribute to the body of research for them as a proxy.
All in the name of science, of course.
Stay warm, stay healthy, stay tuned.