The Centuries-Old History Of The Classic Hot Toddy

There's a reason people start getting excited for this time of year — and it isn't always for the drop in temperatures. The cooler months bring thoughts of cozy indoor activities, nights curled up on the sofa, and Christmas day with family and friends. Most of all, it's the variety of comfort food and drinks that the season brings that have people looking forward to spending some time indoors in front of the fireplace. There are a lot of traditional drinks associated with Christmas, such as eggnog, but for a more spirited drink, there's nothing better than sipping on a Hot Toddy. 

The Hot Toddy — a drink most commonly consisting of whiskey, hot water, honey, and lemon juice — has a few origin stories. Some suggest it originated in Dublin, Ireland, and was named after Dr. Robert Bentley Todd, an 1800s doctor who prescribed sick people a drink of brandy, cinnamon, sugar, and hot water, per According to another source, the drink originated in 19th-century Edinburgh, Scotland, back when bartenders would add hot water from Todds Well — the largest in the area — to whiskey in an effort to keep the cold at bay. However, many others agree that the story goes back much further than that — a few hundred years earlier, in fact.

We may have India to thank for the Hot Toddy

Based on written evidence from 1786, there was a drink in India known as a "taddy" in the Hindi language, according to VinePair. It consisted of an alcoholic base of fermented palm sap, water, sugar, and spices. Based on the pronunciation of the letter "a" in Hindi, this would have been said as "tah-dy," making it highly plausible that its name would have eventually become "toddy" over time. It's believed that trading patterns brought the beverage to Britain, eventually making its way to other parts of the world, including the U.S.

Given that the hot toddy is not the only worldwide beverage to get its origin from an Indian word, it's even more conceivable that this is the true origin story. The popular drink found at parties all over the Western world, punch, is also said to have gotten its name from the Indian word for the number five, "panch." According to Difford's Guide, the first recorded reference to punch was in 1638, when it's said that Surat, India, factory workers would refresh with a blend of water, rosewater, citrus juices, and sugar. Another reference suggests that the original ingredients may also have included spirits and spices. So, whether the Hot Toddy owes its origin story to India, Scotland, or Ireland, one thing is certain: It still hits the spot on a cold winter's night.