Colorful leaves, bushels of apples, cold zephyr and sweaters are back in season. The fragrant aromas of apple cider and hot cocoa tells you that autumn is in the air. With the temperature constantly dropping, I love wrapping my frozen fingers around a warm cocktail and remind myself that cold weather can be wonderful too. The first warm drink of the season I made is this comforting hot toddy spiced with black pepper, cinnamon and ginger.

Hot toddy is a classic alcoholic beverage served warm during the colder months. It has also been proven very effective to fight the symptoms of cold and cough that come along with the changing weather. The basic recipe of hot toddy has just 3 ingredients –  a base liquor, honey and lemon topped with boiling water. But you can do a lot of variations with this basic recipe and create a drink as per your own taste and preference.

I have been making hot toddy the classic way with mild variations here and there. At times I add some spice to my basic cup of toddy or just replace the boiling water with a herbal tea. But this time, I wanted the spice to just shine through, and hence I boiled the water that would go in my toddy along with black pepper, ginger and cinnamon on a very low flame. This infused the water with the distinct taste of the spices and the flavors that came through in my toddy were to die for.

Another addition to my regular cup was a splash of apple cider vinegar. The end result was a warm, perfectly spiced, subtly sweet, slightly tart and a super boozy cocktail, perfect to be sipped on a chilly evening.

Here I have listed down some ingredients that can spur your ideas to create your own creative concoction.

  • For the base liquor, whiskey is the standard choice but you can substitute it with bourbon, brandy or dark rum.
  • When it comes to adding spices to the toddy, you can feel free and play around  with multiple of them. Cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, star anise and ginger are just a few that can add a whole new dimension to your beverage.
  • Usually honey is used as a sweetener in the toddy for its healing benefits. But you can also add a different spin by using agave nectar, maple syrup or simple syrup.
  • If you want to take the medicinal properties of toddy a notch up, you can replace the hot water with any herbal tea. The ones which I have tried are chamomile, ginger, turmeric and hibiscus tea, and they all go great with the toddy.
  • As far as the citrus is concerned, I prefer adding Meyer lemon. It can be well replaced with orange, grapefruit or lime. Also if you prefer you can add a tiny splash of apple cider vinegar. The acid from the vinegar will not only bring out all the flavors of the toddy but it will also add a warm, wintery aesthetic.

So use the basic recipe as a canvas and create your own customized drink or just follow my recipe to get the coziest drink of the season. Also try my cranberry tea recipe I made last fall if you prefer a non alcoholic drink to sit by and relax. Happy cooking!!

Ingredients ( For 1 serving)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 oz whiskey
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 3 – 4 black pepper corns, crushed
  • 1 small stick cinnamon
  • slice of lemon for garnish
  • cinnamon sticks for garnish


  • Take a saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Once the water comes to a coil, reduce the heat low and add cinnamon, grated ginger and black pepper.

  • Simmer it for 3 – 4 minutes and turn the flame off. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it sit for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Take a cup, add the whiskey, honey, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.

  • Pour the spices infused water over it and give it a nice stir. Taste and add a teaspoon of honey for more sweetness or a teaspoon of lemon juice for more zing.
  • Garnish it with a lemon round and cinnamon and serve hot.



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