"Winter" isn't exactly a word that means much in L.A. After all, our Southern latitude can mean 80-degree temps in January. That's why we live here after all, right? Still, at this time of year, nights turn chilly and sour throats abound. At times like this, there's nothing quite like a hot toddy. Little Dom's/Dominick's bartender Nikki Sunseri has her own take on the classic, using bourbon, chamomile tea and clover honey syrup.
The toddy is a real dinosaur of the cocktail food chain. It's been around since the 1700s and, by the time it had been recorded in Jerry Thomas's Bartenders Guide in 1862, it was already an old timer. One of the reasons for its popularity is its simplicity. Some spirit, a bit of sugar and water - presto, toddy time.
While most of us know about the hot version, toddies can be served hot or cold, so they are often confused with slings - which can be served cold or hot. By the way, by the simple definition above, both the julep and the sangaree could be considered toddies, as they employ nothing more than spirit, sugar, and ice. Puzzled? Don't be. The juggling of nomenclature is rife in cocktail history.
Suffice it to say that, as David Wondrich opines in his book Imbibe!, "under the proper circumstances, a Hot Toddy ... is one of the clearest signs I know that there is a providential plan to the universe." The 1887 edition of Thomas's book listed no fewer than seven toddy recipes, including an apple toddy, which employed applejack and half a baked apple, as well as hot and cold versions of the gin and whiskey toddy.
As Thomas's recipes suggest, a toddy could be made with any spirit, although it was most likely originally made with Scotch. Nikki Sunseri's take uses bourbon, specifically Eagle Rare Single Barrel Kentucky Straight, which adds an oaky, sweet note to the drink. Sunseri's enthusiasm for the drink is quite practical.
"Since now it's Los Angeles winter, I'm hooked on the hot toddy," she says. "After working a long night - and we all do - these help lull me to sleep and relax at the end of a shift." An ounce and a half of bourbon will do that.
From: Nikki Sunseri, Little Dom's/Dominick's
1 1/2 ounces Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 ounce clover honey syrup (syrup is 1:1 ratio warm water and clover honey combined)
3 ounces chamomile tea (Mighty Leaf recommended)
lemon peel for garnish
1. Combine bourbon, lemon juice and honey syrup in a heat proof glass or mug.
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2. Add hot tea and stir gently to combine.
3. Garnish with lemon peel. Breathe in, sip, relax.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book "Gin: A Global History." Her book "12 Bottle Bar", co-written with David Solmonson, is due out at the end of summer 2014. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.