Why A Toddy

A question from AK: “General toddy question: Is there ever, in your opinion, a reason to make a cold toddy such as these rather than immediately reaching for the Ango and a twist?”

Well, if we put ourselves back in the pre-cocktail era, someone from that time might ask you the exact opposite question: “Why on earth are you putting bitters in perfectly good booze?”

Bitters were originally created as medicinal elixirs, things to put your stomach, or other organs, on the path to recovery.

You added sugar, (and maybe a little booze,) to your bitters to make them more palatable, not the other way around.

In those days, if you were going to modify your booze, you’d probably make a punch, a cobbler, a toddy, or if you were particularly forward thinking, a julep.

I sometimes wonder, if we are indeed in a golden age of quality spirits, why are we doing so much to disguise the character of these wonderful products of the distillers craft?

7 thoughts on “Why A Toddy

  1. I sometimes wonder, if we are indeed in a golden age of quality spirits, why are we doing so much to disguise the character of these wonderful products of the distillers craft?

    Could not agree more.

    • That’s how I look at it. I make an Old Fashioned when I want it to be all about the spirit, but when I don’t want the full force of a straight liquor. I almost never have whiskey on the rocks – I’m usually disappointed – but the Old Fashioned components add spice and interest.

      But heck, maybe the sugar alone would have the same effect? This calls for science.

  2. I had never thought of bitters as a disguise. I agree with the idea that I think DJ is suggesting, that bitters work more like herbs and spices. (Yes, that’s tautological, I know…) Sometimes I desire them, sometimes not; certainly they should be chosen judiciously and used carefully.

    I’d be interested to know what leads you down the “disguise” path of questioning. I sense there’s an interesting story there.

  3. I fit spirits into the five following categories (Using the Van Winkle/Old Weller lineup as an example):

    Special Occasion/Weekend Sipper (Pappy 15-yr and up)
    Weekday Sipper (Van Winkle 12-yr, Lot B)
    Flask (Van Winkle 10-yr)
    Good Mixer (Old Weller Antique)
    Cheap Mixer (Old Weller Reserve)

    Sometimes, if I am making a drink for someone else, I’ll go for flask quality, or if short on mix quality spirit. Needless to say, when I see you use sipping quality spirits for your recipes, it makes me cringe a bit, but it’s a free country, so go ahead and use that Sazerac 18 in a crappy Savoy recipe, see if I care. *sobs*

    • I will try not to take offense at your “crappy Savoy recipe” comment.

      Well, sure, I have a general rule of not spending more than $30-40 on mixing spirits, preferably less, especially for unaged spirits. Doesn’t work for all categories, and sometimes I cheat, but we all like to show off, now don’t we?

      To the best of my remembrance, the only thing I have ever used Sazerac 18 Rye in is a Sazerac, which to my mind isn’t a particular waste. Nor do I consider the use of the Four Roses Single Barrel a particular waste in a Toddy. Both drinks give plenty of room for the spirit in question to shine.

      I would not, however, (probably) use either in a Whiskey Sour, or similar drink, where the spirit is more “disguised”.

      The main problem, though, especially here in the section of drinks from the 19th Century and before, is that these drinks would have been made with Cask Strength Spirits. Sadly, the playing field of Cask Strength, or even Bonded, American Whiskey and Spirits is pretty limited to high end bottlings.

      Sob all you want.

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