Whether you’ve come down with a serious case of the sniffles, or you simply want to warm your soul on a sodden winter day, a hot toddy is just what the (boozy) doctor ordered.
However, while pretty much any old whiskey will suffice in a pinch, if you really want that hot toddy to pop, you need something special.
Using a subpar toddy whiskey isn’t exactly going to make your illness any worse, and it should still stop your shivering, but it’s a bit of a waste of ingredients, and as far as I’m concerned, wasting whiskey is the cardinal sin of spirits!
Not to worry, though, my sneezy chum, for having enjoyed my fair share of warm whiskey beverages in the past, I know exactly what you should be looking for. Allow me to introduce you to 5 perfect whiskeys for your hot toddies this winter!
Best Whiskey For Hot Toddy — Reviews
Best Overall — Maker’s Mark
- Barley malt, butterscotch and vanilla bean tones
- Medium finish hints of gentle caramel and dry oak spice
- Excellent everyday bourbon and great in cocktails
Maker’s Mark is a delicious Kentucky bourbon that pairs a corn-based mash with sweet wheat rather than aromatic spices, which I think imbues it with the perfect give and take for top-notch toddy — notes of caramel and vanilla take center stage without eclipsing your own choice of spices.
This whiskey also really lets the lemon sing, and the smooth finish is incredibly easy on the throat, so if you’re feeling a little hoarse, Maker’s Mark really hits the spot.
At 45% ABV, it’s also got one hell of a boozy kick to it, which is exactly what you need to perk you up and get you feeling somewhat yourself when the sniffles strike.
It’s not the cheapest, but neither is it going to leave you destitute, which is sort of the sweet spot for a toddy whiskey, and once you’re all better again, it’s a dynamite straight sippin’ beverage!
- Price — Not too expensive, not too cheap… just right!
- Flavors — Caramel and vanilla notes are very soothing in a hot toddy.
- Unspiced — Gives full control of spicing to you.
- Sweetness — Goes down easy, even if you’re feeling nauseous.
- 45% ABV — Strength provides a little extra pick-me-up.
- Age — Only aged for 6 years. A couple more would really invigorate the flavor.
Premium Pick — Redbreast (12 Years)
- Complex spicy and fruity on the nose with toasted wood notes
- Balanced flavor profile of balance of spicy, creamy, fruity, sherry and toasted notes
- Long finish - flavors linger on the palate
While Redbreast is definitely positioned in the market as a sipping whiskey, if I have some in the house, and I’m feeling rough, I simply can’t resist a tipple in my hot toddy — it’s simply divine!
One of the smoothest whiskeys I’ve ever had the privilege of drinking, this triple-distilled Irish masterpiece is a thing of utter liquid beauty. It hits the tongue softly, then blooms across the taste buds in a phantasmagoria of delicate spices and cream, followed up by a robust, woody aftertaste.
Aged in sherry casks, it has an almost Christmas pudding-esque punch, which I feel blends wonderfully with additional cloves and spices, doubling down on the saliva-inducing qualities of a toddy and saving your sore throat.
Price-wise, it’s at the very limit of what I’d consider an appropriate budget for hot toddy whiskey, but the fact it’s an amazing drinking closet mainstay to have throughout the year certainly sweetens the deal.
- Smooth — Doesn’t leave you shuddering.
- Well spiced — Triggers saliva production to lubricate the throat.
- Woody aftertaste — A nuance that helps the whiskey linger after every sip.
- Aged to perfection — Powerful flavor cuts through the ingredients.
- Price — You may have to smash your piggy bank.
Budget Pick — Jim Beam White Label
I see Jim Beam White Label as the king of affordable whiskey, the reason being, the character of this spirit seems hardly compromised by the reasonable price tag — hooray!
This drink has a powerful, yet rounded impact, shouldering politely in front of the other toddy ingredients before mellowing to a pleasant, muted finish, which is somewhat at odds with the Redbreast we just discussed.
I found that the hints of fresh-cut hay and cereal sweetness of this bourbon mingle exquisitely with the honey in a hot toddy. While it’s no pushover, it’s relatively easy on the palate yet incredibly warming in the chest and stomach thanks to the 40% alcohol level — just the perk-up you need to get through the soggy seasons!
- Price — Won’t break the bank.
- Mildly sweet and savory — Works great with honey.
- Mellow finish — Easy on iffy stomachs.
- One of the most bought whiskeys
- Age — It’s a very young whiskey that could benefit from a few more years in the cask, but that’s part of the reason it’s so dang affordable, so I’ll let it slide.
Immediate Relief — Jim Beam Hot Toddy
If you’re too sick to handle mixing a drink, and there’s nobody around to lend a hand, what you need is this delicious, premixed Jim Beam Hot Toddy. All the key ingredients for a healing brew are ready to go right out of the bottle. All you need to do is heat it up and slurp away!
The question is, is this toddy in a bottle as good as a homemade version mixed with love? Well, no, not really. After trying this hot toddy, I instantly concluded that my own creation would have been better, but that was always going to be the case.
The truth of the matter is that this is a damn-fine hot toddy considering it takes zero effort to prepare, and, as I said, if you’re in no state to mix yourself a drink, this concoction will be your saving grace. I’d recommend everybody have a bottle of this stuff stashed away somewhere for a lazy, rainy day.
- Premade — Doesn’t matter if you don’t have any other ingredients; it’s mixed and ready to go.
- Full flavor — Surprisingly well-rounded flavor for a premixed blend.
- Price — Not much more expensive than White Label.
- Not as good as a homemade toddy — If you’re an experienced hot toddy sipper, you can no doubt do better yourself.
Best for A Smokey Tinge — Famous Grouse Blended Scotch
I’m not the biggest fan of smokey whiskey in a toddy, but if it’s subtle enough, and supported with some strong background flavors, it can be a real treat when you’re a little sick of sweet-tasting variants.
It’s also a fantastic mixing whiskey, which means you’re not missing out on much by using it for your hot toddies, and being that it’s reasonably priced, you should be able to keep it stocked year-round without needing to remortgage the house.
Bringing a decidedly oaken hint and rummy sweetness to the classic drink, it provides a lot of body to even very small sips, helping to stretch a single toddy a long, long way.
This is the whiskey you need in your toddy when you’re wrapped up in blankets next to an open fire, watching all your favorite reruns on TV.
- Price — Easy on the old wallet.
- Rummy sweetness — Offsets the smoke nicely.
- Good mixing whiskey — Not for straight drinking, so have a tipple in your toddy guilt-free.
- Smoke — Some sickies may find it overwhelming.
Best Whiskey For Hot Toddy — A
Buyer’s Sniffler’s Guide
Sometimes, even liquor aficionados have trouble putting their finger on exactly what makes one whiskey better than another for a particular drink, and the hot toddy is quite a tough cookie to crack.
So, to help you understand how I chose my top 5 winter-busting whiskeys, I’ve composed this brief but informative buyer’s guide. Armed with the following knowledge, you’ll always know what you’re looking for to craft the perfect pick-me-up drink on a miserable evening.
While the honey and lemon sweeten the drink and boost its medicinal qualities, the star of the show in terms of flavor should always be the whiskey, which means you should be looking for something with a robust flavor profile.
To glean a basic understanding of how strong a whiskey will taste, you can use its age, as the longer the alcohol is casked, the more flavorful and complex the spirit should be. Having said that, there are some very potent young whiskeys on the market, such as Jim Beam White Label, that are definitely up to the hot toddy challenge.
Which Flavor Is Best?
Whiskey can have all kinds of flavors — it can be sweet, smokey, peaty, teeming with notes of vanilla and various fruits… you name it. As for which is best for a hot toddy, it’s hard to say, as everyone has their preferences.
In fact, mine change from day to day, so I’m not going to sit here and claim one flavor is objectively better than the other, but I will guide you on what to expect from each.
Sweet whiskeys are heavenly to sip but bear in mind that you’ll be mixing it with plenty of honey, and the last thing you want is to end up with a series of painful pimples on your tongue.
In light of this, I’d stick to mildly sweet whiskeys that meld pleasantly with the honey and lemon without taking the sugar content too far.
Cards on the table, I’m rarely in the mood for a smokey whiskey in a hot toddy, but hey, if you’re sitting by an open fire, and you’re really into BBQ sauce, then why not!
Again, I’d stick to something mildly smoky, as, although the flavor of the whiskey should be center stage, it shouldn’t be diving into the audience with smokey abandon.
In my opinion, peaty whiskeys have something of an antiseptic taste to them. So, if you want your hot toddy to taste like honest-to-goodness medicine to perhaps trick your body and mind into recovery, placebo-style, it’s a good choice.
I, for one, love a lightly floral whiskey in my hot toddy, as it blends beautifully with the citric element of the lemon; however, these kinds of flavors are usually undertones that can get lost in the drink if you go too hard on the honey and spices.
A flavorful fruity whiskey cuts through a hot toddy with aplomb, adding a refreshing quality otherwise absent from the famous beverage. Having said that, I would avoid whiskeys that are artificially flavored with fruit, as they can be overbearing.
The warmth of hot toddy works wonders on a bunged up system, but part of the reason they make you feel better about your sorry situation is that you get a little bit tipsy, which is why I recommend a powerful whiskey of at least 40% ABV.
The hot toddy isn’t a drink you’re going to be pounding back all night and day, especially if you’re feeling under the weather, so you need to be able to feel the benefit of a single serving.
You could do so by upping the whiskey ratio in the toddy, but then the honey, lemon, and spices will be underwhelming. Nope, the only answer is to choose a whiskey with a high alcohol content!
Don’t Go Overboard With Your Budget
I know you’re looking for a fine whiskey to make a truly magical hot toddy, but here’s the thing… you shouldn’t be mixing fine whiskeys with anything.
Call me a snob, pretentious, a purist, or all of the above, but it’s my belief that an expensive whiskey should be taken neat, perhaps, on occasion, with a few ice cubes, but anything other than that is spirit sacrilege!
The perfect whiskey for hot toddy treads the line between low-quality whiskey that you’d be better off mixing with pop, and high-quality whiskey you should appreciate head (see also: Howler Head Whiskey Review)(or tongue) on, with no distractions. A good hot toddy whiskey is also a good one for other whiskey cocktails!
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we part ways and you prepare yourself for the hot toddy of a lifetime, let’s address a few toddy-based FAQs.
What Is The Best Whiskey For A Hot Toddy?
In my humble… scratch that, expert opinion, Maker’s Mark is the best whiskey for a hot toddy. It has a robust, faintly sweet flavor with vanilla accents that work magnificently with honey, lemon, and spices.
It’s also very sippible straight, but not so expensive that you’d feel like a wretch for diluting it with some mixers, and it has 46–47% ABV — nice!
Why Does Whiskey Make You Feel Better When You Have A Cold?
Whiskey is a known decongestant, meaning it dilates blood vessels and thins mucus, thereby clearing your sinuses and helping you deal with a rotten cold. Combine the medicinal qualities of whiskey with the honey, lemon, and heat of a hot toddy, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a remedy for the winter woes!
Can You Drink A Hot Toddy Every Day?
Experts claim that one hot toddy a day when you’re sick, is fine, but any more can be counterproductive, as alcohol dehydrates the body, and hydration is critical for a snappy recovery.
If you do feel the need to have more than one a day, I’d recommend spacing them out and sipping plenty of water before and after.
Are The Spices Just For Flavor In A Hot Toddy?
Nope, everything in a hot toddy is included primarily for its medicinal properties, even the spices. The lovely flavor is just a bonus!
Spices stimulate the production of saliva, alleviating soreness of the throat.
Is Jack Daniel’s Good For A Hot Toddy?
Jack Daniel’s isn’t the best for a hot toddy, in my opinion, but it’s by no means the worst either.
The flavor has enough edge to cut through the peripheral ingredients, the smokiness isn’t overwhelming, the sweet notes aren’t cloying, and it has a suitable price tag.
My one issue is that it hits a little raw, which isn’t what you want if you’ve got a sore throat or a weak stomach.
How Much Whiskey Should Be In A Hot Toddy?
Typically, a hot toddy contains around 50 ml of whiskey, but that’s not exactly a rule. Feel free to follow your instincts on this front. If you think you’ll benefit from more or less, adjust your reference recipe accordingly.
Is Scotch Or Irish Whiskey Better For A Hot Toddy?
There is no right or wrong answer here. Both nations have utilized their native whiskeys to help them survive their famously rotten winter weather.
Rather than generalizing whiskeys by nation, my advice is to address them individually, as there is a wide variety of different styles to be found in both Ireland and Scotland.
There you have it, folks — five whiskeys for taking your hot toddy tipple to the next level! Any one of these could be the secret ingredient you’ve been searching for to reinvigorate your sodden soul and stoke the fires within. Cheers!