Mastering the Hot Toddy With Andrew Volk

The key to a great Hot Toddy? A technique that ensures it's actually hot.

“Hot Toddies are those drinks you get when you’re cold or when you have a cold,” says Andrew Volk. “You want something strong, you want something hot, you want something a little bit spicy.”

That middle dictum, however, is most essential to Volk, owner and operator of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club in Maine. “So many times with Hot Toddies you order one and it’s lukewarm,” he notes. “Temperature is one of the ingredients, you need to treat it as such—it says it in the name.”

To achieve the desired temperature (“it shouldn’t be tepid”), Volk ensures that everything—not only the water—is hot. “You want to get your tools as hot as possible. You want your ingredients as hot as possible. You want to get the glass as hot as possible,” he says.

Where many people rely solely on the hot water to do the job, Volk goes a step further. Using two metal mixing tins, one nestled within the other, he fills the larger one with enough hot water that the second, smaller tin floats in the heated bath. That creates an ad hoc bain marie in which the drink can be built. “At the end of the day, the Hot Toddy is going to be an eight-ounce drink at most. And if half of those things that the drink touches are not hot, you’re shooting yourself in the foot on the outset—there’s only so much thermodynamic potential in a few ounces of hot water.”

For the toddy itself, Volk takes a straightforward approach to ingredients, offering both bourbon– and brandy-based options. “It’s not necessarily the driver of the drink,” he says of the base spirit, noting that he also remains largely brand-indifferent when it comes to the recipe. “The important thing here is using something that’s strong that’ll stand up through the drink.” At his bar in the city’s Old Port neighborhood, he opts for a bonded bourbon for a bracing option, or Cognac for a more fruit-forward rendition.

In addition to the typically prescribed lemon juice component, Volk employs a ginger syrup for a spicy kick and a signature cardamom-coriander syrup that adds both sweetness and baking spice notes to the mixture. “It’s a Scandinavian take on allspice dram,” he explains of the recipe, which has become a calling card for the bar, though he notes St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram paired with rich simple syrup would achieve a similar effect. Lastly, he garnishes the hot drink with an orange twist and a torched cinnamon stick for a pop of color and an aromatic flourish. “It’s sort of the expected garnish,” admits Volk, “but it brings a nice nose to everything.”

Beyond temperature and ingredients, the size of the drink is a crucial element for Volk, who serves his version in a relatively diminutive eight-ounce tempered glass that’s been preheated with hot water. “It should pack a punch,” he says, eschewing the pint-glass pour that the drink often arrives in. “You don’t want to be sitting on a Hot Toddy for 45 minutes, you want to drink it and move on.”

Andrew Volk's Hot Toddy

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