Liquor in the Toddies: Hot Drinks for a Sore Throat

In a semi-regular segment entitled Liquor In The ______ that can’t be too regular because I’m probably drinking right now, I’m going to write to you about all the different ways you can liquor. I recognize that it’s weird, especially for those of you who have actually had a drink with me, because I am what the frat boys would call a “two-beer queer” (what I would call a “no-beer queer,” as I’m gay all the live long day). But I get drunk very easily, is the point. Still, I really really like beer, wine and liquor and want to share that love for the artistry of alcohol with you all, my favorite queers. Let’s lift a pint to alcohol and our Autostraddle community– they go together like wine and soft cheese.

Header by Rosa Middleton


This morning, I woke up with a sore throat due to a veritable plague that’s been going around work. Three mugs of tea, still no sign of my voice. I feared it had gone for good, packed its bags and fled to Rio. So, figuring it couldn’t possibly get any worse, I poured some bourbon in my tea and lo, a hot toddy and lubricated vocal chords (I can’t even type the word lubricated without giggling, that’s how awesome these hot toddies are).

Mmmm. Lemon.

Mmmm. Lemon.

I got this brilliant idea because I thought hot toddies were originally used for medicinal purposes. Turns out they weren’t: they were co-opted for “curing the common cold” (they don’t, but we can pretend) in 19th century medical journals. Hot toddies come in two major varieties: without tea (traditional) and with tea (not traditional, but tasty). There is also another major category of with lemon or without lemon. One thing is for certain: you need hot water, sugar (I’m using rough cut demerara sugar cubes), and liquor. Bourbon, Rum and Whiskey are the most common choices, but I even found a recipe for a Tequila Toddy. Basically if it’s liquor, you can probably make it into a hot toddy. For today’s post, I’m making two toddies: one traditional, non-tea toddy and one medicinal, Ali’s Cure For The Lost Voice Toddy.

A Traditional Hot Toddy

You will need:

1 pot

1/2 cup water

2 Demerara sugar cubes

1 1/2 oz Bourbon

a jigger to measure with (please always measure the liquor)

3 slices of lemon, one will be for garnish

2 cinnamon sticks, one to garnish

mugs or another variation on heat-resistant glasses

a muddling spoon

Warm your glasses/mugs by filling them with warm water first (it’s the little things). Boil the water and two lemon slices together. Throw a cinnamon stick in thar. When that business is close to boiling, toss the warm water out of your mug and toss, in its stead, the two sugar cubes and the 1 1/2 oz. of brandy.

sugar cubes


Pour the hot water over the sugar and brandy and use the back of your muddling spoon to break up the sugar. Then stir until the sugar dissolves. Garnish with a lemon slice (floating on the surface of the toddy) and a cinnamon stick.


the finished toddy


Ali’s Cure for the Lost Voice Toddy

(This may or may not actually help with a lost voice — I am not a doctor, but it made me feel better.)

This recipe is based on this one over at the Kitchn for adult Bourbon cough syrup and this one for a tea toddy.

Chamomile tea (loose or bag, your preference)

a pot

1/2 cup water (we will be boiling this)

a large pinch of cloves

3 lemon slices, one for garnish

tea strainer

1 teaspoon honey

1 1/2 oz Bourbon

mugs or heat-resistant glasses

stirring spoon

Rebel Yell


Warm your glass with warm water (this is a trick my dad taught me and it has never failed me, that’s why I keep typing it over and over). Boil the water with a large pinch of cloves and two of the lemon slices. When the water is boiling, turn the heat off and put the tea bags in. While that’s steeping, toss the water out of your mug/glass and coat the bottom of the glass with the teaspoon of honey. Throw the bourbon in on top of it.

measuring bourbon


Pour the tea mixture through a strainer right over top of the bourbon/honey and give it a quick stir to make sure everything is mixed up well. Garnish with one slice of lemon.

sore throat bourbon toddy

I will close with this thought: The traditional toddy wins for taste, the sore-throat toddy wins for making my throat feel better. Cheers!

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. How did you know I woke up with a super sore throat?
    Why am I at work?
    Can I convince my girlfriend to have this waiting for me when I get home?
    Life has so many questions sick brain cannot answer.

  2. True story: Up until recently I the only hot drink I ever had was hot chocolate because I’m 7. No coffee, no hot tea. Not ever. Then I had hot tea AKA real tea and it was amazing and now I am obsessed with hot drinks. Thanks, Ali!

  3. Yummm. When I was sick a few weeks ago I desperately wanted a hot toddy but was too sick to buy the proper ingredients for a legit one, so I made a concoction of sugar plum spice tea, maple whiskey, and agave because for whatever reason that’s what I had on hand. It tasted like cuddling/Christmas but definitely didn’t make my throat feel better, so I will totes be using your recipe next time!

  4. Damn, I have the worst sore throat and all I have is gin. Gin toddies probably aren’t that great.

  5. I want to kiss you on the mouth for being so timely, but my sore throat just started and I don’t want to add to anyone’s misery.

  6. I am so having a toddy tonight, I’m on my way to the oldest pub in Ireland!

    Hot Port with cloves and sugar made in much the same way, is also lovely.
    As is Brandy in Indian Chai, served at all the best music festivals in England

  7. Christmas Eve I got sick and made myself a hot toddy. I have about a fifty/fifty chance with hot toddies. Unfortunately, this was a losing chance, so I just lay awake very confused/mildly intoxicated and being spooned and really woozy.

    I still have bronchitis but it was worth a shot.

  8. My girlfriend has been sick for a week now and losing her voice is the latest development in what she is calling the Black Plague. I’m totes going to go home and make her one (or both!) of these! Obviously it would be for the best if I drink them too. For….preventative measures….

  9. Ali–I thought of your column title today because while driving on I-69, there was a billboard for a store called “69 Liquors” and I know there’s a joke in there but I’m too tired to make it.

    • I have actually been to I-69 Liquors! They sell items that have the highway shield on the front (I-69) and “Do you?” on the back. We bought as many beer cozies as we could fit into our luggage to triumphantly present to friends when we got home. Because really, everyone needs one of those.

  10. My go-to hot toddy for everything from losing my voice, to headcolds, to feeling out of fucks to give is: a shot of bourbon, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of honey. Fill mug with boiling water and stir. This is fine and dandy on its own. Sometimes, I drop in a lemon/lime Airborne tablet, which is fun to watch fizz and adds vitamins, and I realize is really weird.

  11. I love a hot toddy, even when I am not feeling sick. It’s just a great comfort drink. However, not being a fan of tea, hot or cold, I make mine with apple cider and it’s delectable. I recommend it.

  12. I also think this is an appropriate time to mention that the song
    ” Hot Toddy” by Usher is forever on repeat on my itunes.

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