Ah, winter. The season of soup, snow and cuddly blankets. I have been a fan ever since childhood, and still get downright giddy when I hear that we might get a few flurries. Don't get me wrong, I love the other seasons too, but there is something magical about these dark and restful months. That is, until you catch the flu.
I'm a firm supporter of flu shots and pony up to the pharmacy every year (ok, I forgot last year and wouldn't you guess, I caught the flu!). The unfortunate truth is that the shot is never 100% effective, so today we discuss your flu season back-up plan.
It's time to call in the Toddy!
The good news is that you can keep most of these ingredients on hand for up to a month. Your two fresh ingredients, lemon and ginger, can both stay in your refrigerator's fruit drawer for weeks as long as you you keep them dry and unwashed. That is a good tip in general for most fruits and veggies - do not wash them when you bring them home from the store. Any additional moisture you leave on the surface or between leaves will hasten their decline, so washing just before use is the way to go.
As for the honey, booze and water - who doesn't have those typically on hand?
So let's go over each ingredient, its purpose and preparation:
-Lemon: Whether or not you believe in the power of Vitamin C to significantly boost your immune system -after- you have gotten sick, you can't deny that as a base for this hot beverage, it's a taste super star. But why wait until you already sick? Consumption of lemons as a preventative measure, along with a host of other great health benefits as listed in this Live Science article, proves that Hot Toddys are great anytime!
-Ginger: the stomach soother. I'm fortunate that my flu experience does not often include nausea, but when I do experience an upset stomach, I always reach for ginger. Fresh ginger can be steeped into tea, toddys or Asian style soups. For motion sickness, candied ginger is both incredible and portable. In our flu-fighting Hot Toddy, ginger is also going to do double duty as it helps to clear your sinuses. If you would like more information on how ginger works its magic, check out this article (and its accompanying citations) at HowStuffWorks.
-Honey: I have already written about the values and virtues of using local honey back in my article on making Young Fruit Mead. In terms of our Toddy, honey has been shown to be -as effective- as a popular OTC cough syrup ingredient, and with less dangerous side effects in children (click to read the University of Missouri-Columbia study abstract). Honey is also prized for its ability to sooth a sore throat, though that claim is more antidotal vs. backed by science.
Water: This one is easy, it fights dehydration that occurs from the expelling of mucus and a general trend to eat and drink less when sick. The more you drink in the form of broth, teas and yes, toddys, the less likely you will be to suffer the effects of dehydration.
Booze: Ok, this one may be tougher to warrant for some, but alcohol does help to dilate blood vessels which acts as a decongestant. It can also help you fall asleep and we all know that rest is the best medicine. Whiskey, bourbon and brandy are the most commonly used spirits for a Toddy, but anything that pairs well with the flavor of lemon will suffice. Toddys can be made without alcohol for anyone abstaining, or too young to imbibe. Alcohol can also worsen the effects of dehydration, so plan your spiked Toddys accordingly.
(Some other regional variants might include spices such as clove or cinnamon, so feel free to experiment with new flavors.)
Now that we know why each ingredient has a place in our Hot Toddy, let's get down to making some!
Grab a mug that can hold at least 2 cups of finished Toddy as this recipe produces a finished pint.
Juice 1/2 of a lemon per Toddy. You can strain the pulp if you prefer, but when I'm sick, I just don't have that level of care. I'm so used to Toddy's having pulp now that I wouldn't make them any other way.
Cut your ginger into pieces that will easily infuse the beverage, but not too small that you might accidentally swallow some. Ginger peels tend to float if you use the outer sections to reduce waste, so cut sizes accordingly.
Add as much honey as you like, you earned it! Two good spoonfuls tend to work for me, but keep adding until it tastes perfect. (Though sugar or stevia can be used instead, just realize that they will not provide the same cough suppressant and sore throat treatment as honey would.)
Add one shot (1.5oz) of alcohol. You might be tempted to add more, but just remember - you can always make more toddys!
Now add your boiling water, leaving just enough room to give the whole thing a good stir.
Sweet, delicious relief!
A word of caution before I go on not mixing OTC cold remedies and alcohol. A Hot Toddy should already provide all the same relief, but if your symptoms worsen, its time to get yourself to the doctor.
Good luck this flu season, and don't forget - Hot Toddys are delicious, so enjoy them any time.
Do you know of any other flavor variations for Hot Toddys? Share your recipes in the comments!