My first hot toddy happened years ago at Nye’s in Northeast. I wasn’t smitten with it then because it seemed harsh and watery all at once. And because I didn’t know much beyond beer. But something about the bar’s wood paneling and the yellow glow made the drink stick in my mind.
Now, as winter deepens, it feels like all anyone can do is kick off their boots and turn on the kettle before falling into bed. I’ve been combating my own winter slumber with nightly rounds of hot toddies, trying them over and over again. Each time, Nye’s rec room-like interior swims to the surface. The drink is restorative. The bourbon has grown on me. I like the taste and the shadowy memory of when I was just a little younger and didn’t care for the same things.
When I mentioned my new routine to a friend, he suggested a twist: pear juice. It’s sort of the most obvious winter variation, but it’s so so good. The fruit gives the drink a little more body and some ginger adds more warmth. Give it a shot. And then give it another. Add more ginger, lemon, or bourbon if you like. And then go to bed all fixed-up and warm.
Pear and Ginger Hot Toddy
Yield: Two small servings or one large serving
4 pears (I used 2 Bartlett and 2 Bosc)
2 one-inch chunks of peeled ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
2 oz of your favorite Bourbon
Slice into the middle of one pear, cutting away a thin disc of the fruit. Soak the disc in a small bowl of lemon juice and set aside.
Dice up the rest of the pears and toss into a food processor or blender with the ginger and 8 oz of cold water. Puree until as smooth as possible. Strain puree through a fine mesh sieve into a glass measuring cup. Put a kettle of water on to boil while you complete the next step.
Put the pear juice, two cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of salt into a small saucepan. Simmer for 5 or 10 minutes then remove from heat and let steep.
Pour boiling water from the kettle into two mugs to preheat them. After a few minutes, discard the water and drizzle a little honey into each mug. Cut the lemon-soaked disc of pear in half and toss one half into each mug. Add 1 oz (or 2) of Bourbon and 4 oz of the hot pear juice to each mug. Top with a little hot water and more lemon juice to taste. Drink immediately!