Finding the best Scotch whiskies to master the hot toddy is a winter assignment with top priority. Here’s our hot take (or at the very least, a warm take). In the hierarchy of winter cocktails, it’s really hard to beat the hot toddy. This sometimes-forgotten drink has everything you need in a cold-weather cocktail.
First of all, it doesn’t have any ice because who needs to drink something cold when you’re already chilled? This comforting concoction features hot water, warming whiskey, lemon, and honey. Some swear it’s a cure-all—like if Theraflu actually tasted good…and, y’know, had a boozy kick. What could be better on a freezing winter night (or morning)?
While its genesis can be traced as far back as the 1600s, it became a popular drink in 18th-century England. The earliest recorded hot toddy wasn’t much different from the drink we imbibe today. It was made with hot water, sugar, lemon, spices, and whiskey (likely Scotch whisky).
Like all cocktails, its origins are a little murky. One claim is that it was created by a Scottish doctor in the 1700s as a cure-all. Whether or not that’s true, there’s no denying the hot toddy has medicinal qualities. The addition of lemon and honey are well-suited to coat a sore throat, while steam can open up sinuses, and whiskey can make you forget all about the flu or cold you’re dealing with.
What’s more, different iterations have evolved over time. Some like to utilize Irish whiskey, bourbon, brandy, and various other spirits and whiskeys depending on the region. It’s also a very adaptable drink—with bartenders adding cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, and more.
We’re not here to tell you you can’t use your favorite bourbon, rye, Canadian, or even rye whiskey as a hot toddy base, but if you truly want to make a classic hot toddy, you’ll use Scotch whisky. To help you get the most out of this warming drink, here are 10 of our favorite Scotch whiskies to mix into this iconic, wintry drink.
10 Great Scotch Whiskies to Make a Classic Hot Toddy
1. GlenDronach 12
If you’re looking for a sweeter hot toddy, we suggest you use GlenDronach 12 as a base. This beloved single malt whisky is aged in both Spanish Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. The result is a hot toddy that gets added flavor from notes of ripe berries, dried cherries, candied orange peels, toasted vanilla beans, and holiday spices.
If you’re using a whisky to mix with, it’s difficult to beat the value to quality ratio of Dewar’s White Label. Using Aberfeldy as its main whisky, this blend is made up of over 40 different single malt whiskies. It carries flavors of sticky toffee pudding, clover honey, dried orange peel, and heather—all of which meld together beautifully.
Glenmorangie The Original is not only the best single malt for beginners, it also might be the best whisky for a hot toddy, period. Aged for 10 years in both first and second fill American white oak barrels, it’s known for its creamy, mellow flavor dotted with notes of caramel candy, vanilla beans, and crème brûlée. The sweet, fruity finish is perfect for a hot toddy.
You might not know it, but the best-selling Scotch in Scotland is The Famous Grouse. If this blended Scotch is good enough for them, it’s definitely good enough for us. This beloved blend is known for its palate of cinnamon, ginger, honey, vanilla beans, and candied orange peels.
If you polled bartenders on their favorite Scotch whiskies, you’d get plenty of votes for Monkey Shoulder. This highly mixable whisky is a blend of whiskies from Kininvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich. You’ll pick up notes of dried berries, sticky toffee, caramel candy, candied orange peels, and wintry spices.
If you’re looking for a smoky kick, you can do much worse than Ardbeg 10. This non-chill-filtered, peat-smoked whisky is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels. The result is a whisky with notes of candied orange peels, vanilla beans, salted caramel, and a good deal of peaty smoke. Using this whisky as a base will give you a sweet, smoky hot toddy well-suited for cold nights.
Cutty Sark is a big name in the blended whisky world. You can’t go wrong with inserting its flagship blended whisky here. But if you want to crank up your hot toddy to the umpteenth degree, you’ll use its Prohibition Edition. This 100-proof blend has hints of dark chocolate, sticky toffee pudding, citrus zest, and a slightly nutty, spicy, sweet finish.
One of the best beginner single malts (and great mixing whiskies) on the market, Aberlour 12 Double Cask gets its name because it’s literally matured in two casks: American oak barrels and seasoned sherry butts. The result is a sublimely mellow whisky with flavors of dried cherries, sweet sherry, oaky wood, vanilla, and chocolate—all of which complement the flavors of the drink.
There’s a reason that even if you don’t know anything about single malt Scotch, you’ve heard the name Glenlivet. Its flagship expression is The Glenlivet 12, a whisky aged for 12 years in a combination of European and American oak barrels. This results in a whisky with notes of clover honey, vanilla beans, citrus zest, slight spic, and a nice fruity flavor that brings everything together.
Many people associate the Scottish Inner Hebrides island of Islay exclusively with peated, smoky whiskies. But there are a few un-peated, memorable whiskies perfect for mixing and sipping. One of our favorites is Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie. Made using 100 percent Scottish barley, this un-peated single malt carries flavors of butterscotch, wintry spices, and buttery caramel. The finish is warming, fruity, and slightly spicy.