Before central heating and electricity, heating a cup of spirit with a hot poker was one of the more effective ways to warm up in the winter. The warmth soothed the senses and the alcohol mellowed the mind. But hot drinks are also delicious, which is why they survive well into our era of radiators. Jerry Thomas — the father of bartending as a skilled profession — allegedly even moved back to to the cold Northeast, after years bartending around the South, so he could once again live the pleasure of a hot drink on a cold day. So powerful was his call to warm a chill that he invented drinks like his famous Blue Blazer, a cocktail so hot it strikes fear into the hearts of men.
Below are variations on the classic hot toddy, and some tips on how to make your own with what you’ve got in the spice cabinet.