Okay, first things first: what is a toddy? A hot toddy refers to any drink that is served warm, but the base spirit is usually rum, brandy, or whiskey. Originally (and often still) administered for medicinal reasons, toddies are usually made by mixing tea and honey with one of the above boozes. Although not always.
Because while any bartender can make you a toddy, a bad one will fill a glass mug with a shot of some crap whiskey, top it with steaming water, throw in an anemic wedge of lemon and a plastic stirrer (get out of my drink, plastic stirrer!) and call it a day. This happened to me enough times that I stopped ordering toddies for a while, opting for coffee-based warm drinks which are, to my palate, kind of good even when they are bad—although last year I learned at Cafe Deluxe on Broadway that it is possible to make an undrinkable Irish Coffee. (Step one: pour in murky, oily, decaf that has been sitting on the warmer all day.)
But order a toddy from a good bartender, and he will ask what kind of liquor you like, and then play with ingredients—or at least serve you something he would drink. This is what recently happened to me at Bathtub Gin, where I sipped a bourbon-and-tea mixture that the bartender garnished with a plump lemon wedge studded with cloves. Aromatic, warming, fantastic. I’ve also heard great things about the toddies at The Hideout, Ocho, and The Redwood. This stands to reason since those are all good bars.
So tell me, who makes your favorite toddy?