People like to joke about needing a hot toddy or wanting to add a little somethin’ somethin’ to their hot chocolate this time of year.

This winter has been so cold and snowy, I say go for it – you deserve it.

Bartenders get a lot more requests for hot, spiked drinks during the winter months, so I went to them for some do’s and don’ts on making them at home. They also shared a couple of recipes for one of the favorite winter drinks of all time – the hot toddy.

First of all, says Patrick Morang, bar manager at David’s in Monument Square, keep things simple. Add spices and other ingredients a little at a time because “you can always put things in, but you can’t take things out.”

“Then just kind of sip on it and figure out what kind of flavor you’re looking for,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re making a soup for yourself, or a cup of tea. Some people like cream, some people like sugar. Some people like a little more spice, some people like a little less spice.”

When you’re spiking hot chocolate, of course, the choices are a little simpler. Peppermint schnapps is the old school option, but you might also consider Cointreau or white chocolate liqueur.

When it comes to making hot toddies in all their variations, most people still want something with bourbon, rum or some other dark spirit, says Andrew Volk, owner of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club on Market Street, where the menu of “winter warmers” includes a hot toddy and a hot buttered rum.

“It’s all a matter of taste and preference, but certainly, in the winter months in general, darker spirits just go better – brandies, aged rums, whiskeys, bourbons, scotches,” Volk said. “When it gets cold, they provide that warmth that you don’t necessarily get from lighter spirits. That said, you can still make good warm drinks with gin and clear tequila and vodka.”

If you want to try something with lighter spirits, here’s a spiced cider recipe that was developed for country singer Toby Keith’s Wild Shot Silver Mezcal. It’s so easy that it’s made in a slow cooker:

2 quarts apple cider

¾ cup mezcal

½ cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 teaspoon ground allspice

1½ teaspoons whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 orange

Put apple cider, brown sugar, allspice, cloves, cinnamon sticks in a slow cooker. Add orange slices. Cook on high for two hours, or low for eight hours. Add mezcal, strain out spices and ladle into mugs. Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

THE ORIGIN of the hot toddy is unknown, but there’s some speculation it may have sprung from the Indian toddy, a fermented drink made with the sap of palm trees. In this version, the drink would have made its way to Scotland via the East India Co.

Or it may be an abbreviation of Todian Springs in Edinburgh. Water from the springs was used to make whiskey.

The hot toddy comes in many variations, but the stripped-down Scottish version usually includes liquor, boiling water and sugar or honey. Most people also add some spices and lemon or other form of citrus.

Andrew Volk’s version is as simple as you can get, but forgoes sweetener in favor of a little kick from a fresh ginger syrup that is “ridiculously easy” to make. Just throw equal parts of whole fresh ginger, diced, and hot water into a blender. Blend it until it becomes a liquid, then strain out any remaining solids. (If you make extra, it should be kept in the refrigerator.)

SIMPLE HOT TODDY

1-1/2 ounces brandy or whiskey or rum

¾ ounces fresh lemon juice

¾ ounce ginger syrup

Pre-warm a glass or mug, add ingredients, fill with hot water. Add a whole stick of cinnamon and an orange peel or orange slice. 

VOLK SAYS THAT with any warm winter drink, it’s important to heat the glass or mug you’re going to use first, before pouring the hot liquid.

“It makes the drink warmer longer,” he said. “If you simply warm the mug with some extra hot water first, the mug doesn’t take heat away from the drink once you add the drink in there.”

While doctors say hot toddies don’t help a winter cold much – they only dehydrate you – Volk certainly doesn’t think that a little lemon juice, ginger and honey will do any harm.

“There’s something very comforting about just a steaming warm drink that opens up your sinuses when you’re feeling stuffed up,” he said, “and there’s nothing that will open your sinuses quicker than a little whiskey and some ginger.” 

PATRICK MORANG’S version of a hot toddy uses bourbon infused with mulling spices. (He uses the same bourbon to make Manhattans.) Don’t let this scare you away. All he does is stop by the Whole Foods bulk spice aisle and pick up a few packets of star anise, allspice and cloves.

Take the spices home and toast them long enough so the oils start releasing their aromas.

Add the whole spices to the bourbon and let the bottle sit for a day.

“You can leave them in (longer),” Morang said. “It’s just going to intensify. If you want a stronger flavor of the mulling spices in your bourbon, I’d let it sit for three days. But if you don’t, you can strain them out at that point.”

Instead of lemon, Morang flavors this toddy with the zest of an orange and orange bitters.

HOT PADDY

1-1/2 ounces infused bourbon

2 dashes of Angostura orange bitters

4 ounces hot water

Garnished with zest of an orange, cinnamon stick, demitasse (sugar) stick on the side.

Morang also has done infusions with Thai chilies and candied ginger, toasted macadamia nuts with pineapple, and espresso and cocoa nibs.

He suggests just experimenting with flavors you like.

You may just have plenty of time for that if the rest of the winter plays out as cold and snowy as it has so far.

So have fun finding your perfect toddy, and cheers!

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: Meredithgoad