Oh, Toddy

December 14th, 2010

Ronald & Benita Colman

No, I’m not pretending to be Benita Colman calling Ronnie by his pet name on the set of their radio show, Halls of Ivy, I’m referring to page 57 of Jerry Thomas’s 1862 treatise How to mix drinks: or, The bon-vivant’s companion which he titles TODDIES AND SLINGS. It’s very cold here in New York this week, and last night, as the snow sifted in through the broken window of our Greenwich Village garret, I decided to give my own mustachioed gent something to warm his cockles.

Here was my inspiration, copied from Mr. Thomas’s guide:

Brandy Toddy

My darling is very fond of cognac, which is after all just a fancy kind of brandy. So I filled his mug a bit more than halfway with boiling water, sweetened it liberally with quick dissolving sugar, and poured in a generous slug of Courvoisier VS (no sense in wasting the good stuff). I also added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice since that seems to have been an ingredient in the traditional Scotch whisky toddy. We had to add more sugar (I forgot to allow for mug being a bit larger than a wine-glass), but in the end he pronounced it a fine drink.

While reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin — my most recent literary accomplishment — I was struck by the way some of the coarser characters ordered hot water with their spirits so that they could mix their own “punch,” both at home, and at the tavern. I wonder what would be the bartender’s response were I to amble into a local watering hole and order my bottle with a kettle of water to keep on the hob…

I’ll let you know if I ever try it. Or if I ever get the nerve to serve someone a cocktail that contains half of a baked apple.

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