The world touts the hot toddy cocktail (a hot whiskey drink with lemon and clove) as a cold cure. I dove into the truth behind this claim, and was truly surprised!

Hot Toddy Recipe | Foodess

I’ve always been really curious about the Hot Toddy Cocktail. It’s a hot drink made of whisky or bourbon, lemon, cloves and honey. And…

It’ll cure what ails you. Supposedly.

In the movies, a character will offer a hot toddy to someone with a cold or flu. Personally, when I’m truly sick, I want nothing to do with alcohol. However I was feeling just slightly under the weather recently, couldn’t get warm after a day in the rain, plus the kids were driving me bananas, so I thought, hey — why not go after a few birds with one stone.

According to toddy lovers, the drink makes you feel better because honey coats the throat, lemon offers vitamin C, and the whisky “soothes” aches.

But does the Hot Toddy fix check out science-wise?

I put my kettle on with certainty that the hot toddy’s promise of cold-curing was mostly an excuse to enjoy a cocktail.  Vitamin C is, after all, heat sensitive and boiling water is not its best friend.

I dove a bit deeper, though, and discovered that because we’re not actually boiling the lemon itself and as the drink cools quickly, probably only 10% of the vitamin C would be denatured by the heat. Good news.

Furthermore, clove has an analgesic effect, and it actually helps to numb a sore throat.

And, most noteworthy, honey might actually be as effective as cough medicine for suppressing cough.

Plus, who are we kidding, the whisky doesn’t hurt, either.

Bottom line? Some pretty solid science supports this thing’s claims! Woot woot.

Like lemon tea. But boozy. (So: better!)

Start by poking some whole cloves into a lemon peel. The peel does double duty: the oils it contains have more flavour than the juice, and we use the rind to physically anchor the cloves, which would otherwise be really irritating to drink around.

Pour boiling water in over the clove-studded peel. I like to pause here and infuse for a minute to extract as much flavour as possible for my hot toddy. Next, stir in some honey and fresh lemon juice. Splash some whisky in last. Give it a stir and enjoy the hot drink on your sore throat.

Most importantly? It’s really tasty. I’d never have thought to add cloves to straight-up lemon tea. I’ll be making a virgin version for the kids next time the sniffles come calling.  (Along with my Glowing Turmeric Chicken Soup and my Immunity Smoothie.)  Stay healthy, friends!

hot toddy recipe

Hot Toddy

Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Keyword hot toddy


  • 6 oz water
  • 1 thick strip lemon rind
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 oz bourbon


  • Set a kettle of water to boil. Poke the whole cloves into your lemon rind then place it at the bottom of an 8-oz glass. Pour 4 ounces of boiling water over top, cover, and let stand one minute to infuse.
  • Stir in the honey to dissolve, followed by the lemon juice and bourbon. 


6 oz water 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 lemon rind + 6 cloves 1 tbsp honey 2 oz bourbon
Keyword hot toddy

Last Updated on January 8, 2019 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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nicole (
nicole (
4 years ago

I absolutely swear by a hot toddy whenever I feel the slightest beginnings of a cold come on (well or at any other time too, really…) and I am happy to hear that the science on this checks out (not that I would have changed a thing but even so, that’s pretty cool! :)) Thanks for checking into it for us!

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