Monday, December 30, 2013

Citrus and Ginger Hot Toddy

I often go all-out when it comes to potluck contributions — especially smaller potlucks. Partly to have an excuse to play around in the kitchen, and partly to ensure that there's a substantial veg-friendly option that I can actually make a meal of. But for my recent book club potluck, I decided to just contribute a beverage. The host had said that there'd be a vegetarian main dish, so I didn't need to worry. And also, I was sick. So I brought hot toddies.

In retrospect, I probably should have stayed home (as I was much, much more gross and snuffly than I'd thought I would be). But oh, those toddies. Everyone loved them. Perhaps because folks were still basking in a post-holiday glow, and perhaps because they wanted something seemingly healthy to keep them from getting what I was clearly dying of. And perhaps because this toddy was just really delicious.

When I've made toddies in the past, they've usually just been versions of lemony, honey-spiked tea, sometimes with a shot of booze. But this time I upped the citrus component (thanks to the last of my California backyard Meyer lemons), threw in some fragrant mandarins, and some sharp-hot ginger. I added a few optional touches that I happened to have on hand (a few shakes of bitters and a dozen piney-clean juniper berries), and stirred in some honey. With all that going on, I left out the tea bags, to let the flavors better come through. And yes, I also brought a bottle of bourbon on the side.

If you've got a winter potluck, this makes a phenomenal contribution (even if you don't have a cold). And if you've got an insulated airpot or similar thermos, it's even easier — instead of simmering and infusing on the stove, you can just toss everything in the canister, pour the boiling water over it, and let it infuse for an hour or so. It's great for toasting in whatever the new year may bring, or for just getting you through a snuffly night.

Citrus and Ginger Hot Toddy

yields ~8 servings

3 meyer lemons (2 juiced, 1 sliced)
2 mandarins (1 juiced, 1 sliced)
~2-3 inches fresh ginger (depending upon the thickness), thinly sliced
~a dozen juniper berries, thwacked with a knife to bruise them (optional)
a few shakes bitters
1/4 cup honey
scant 8 cups boiling water

If you have an airpot/thermos, place the citrus (slices and juice), ginger, juniper berries, and bitters in the pot. Place the honey in a heat-proof dish, and pour about a half-cup of the boiling water in to dissolve, then pour that in as well. Add the remaining boiling water to top it off, then cover and let infuse for about an hour (if you don't have an airpot, you can just simmer things on the stove). Serve with an optional slug of bourbon on the side.


  1. Hot toddies are truly the best. :) I've never used juniper berries in mine--what an intriguing idea!

    1. The juniper idea is courtesy of Nigel Slater — it just sort of reinforces that clean taste of the ginger (which is especially nice if you're feeling muzzy headed).