Serious Eats: Recipes

Time for a Drink: Apple Toddy

[Photograph: Paul Clarke]

As I wrote on Wednesday, a hot toddy is among the easiest beverages to make. Stripped down to its basics of hot water, sugar, and fortifying spirit, a toddy can be immensely satisfying.

But as I wrote in my post, and as commenters noted, the toddy can be tinkered with in many ways: honey, lemon, herbal tea and other ingredients can all take a basic toddy and transform it into something unique, with a whole new set of chill-fighting properties.

Here's one version of the hot toddy that's more than 200 years old and deserves another look: the Apple Toddy.

As David Wondrich wrote in Imbibe!, the apple toddy enjoyed immense popularity during the early 1800s, and continued in regular circulation until Prohibition, when it— along with so many other forms of the liquid arts—was mostly forgotten.

An apple toddy takes a little planning, but not much effort. An apple (more than one, if you have guests) gets peeled and baked until practically falling apart; half of the fruit is then crushed with sugar and apple brandy, then you add hot water and stir it all up until the apple dissolves. In last week's Washington Post, Jason Wilson suggested straining the drink to remove the bits of apple pulp before serving; that's a matter of personal preference, so do it the way you like.

A couple of quick mixing notes: the apple toddy is traditionally made with "cider brandy," which translates as American applejack. Laird's sells a 100-proof bonded apple brandy, which is your best choice in this drink (their contemporary applejack is lighter in style than the applejack of yore, and just can't stand up straight in this drink). Failing that, there are other American apple brandies that will work (I like the 4-year-old from Clear Creek Distilling in Oregon), or go with a French Calvados. I suppose you could also try this drink with bourbon, but don't tell anyone I told you so.

For sugar, it's best to go with something a little rich, like demerara ("Sugar in the Raw"), but as with almost all things apple, I like to substitute maple syrup from time to time, and at this time of year it might not be a bad idea to trickle in a little allspice liqueur, should you have the stuff lying around.

Here's a twist on the toddy that warmed your ancestors in the days before central heating. Happy holidays.

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