The history of hot whiskey, Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink

Discover the origins of the famous cocktail and learn how to make your own with our take on the history of hot whiskey, Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink.

Hot whiskey is an Irish drink reserved for winter and Christmas time.

It is the Irish ‘cure all’ for colds and flu, boasting a delicious blend of whiskey, lemon, honey, and cloves, among several other variations.

The drink has been around for hundreds of years, its history rooted in India and Scotland before making its way to the Emerald Isle as Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink.

Scottish roots – where it all began

Hot whiskey is said to have roots in Scotland.
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Many legends suggest that the Irish hot whiskey is actually from Scotland, where it goes by the alternative name of ‘hot toddy’.

Believed to have been invented in Edinburgh in the 18th-century, hot toddies were made in pubs by mixing hot water with Scottish whiskey.

The water allegedly came from Tod’s well, the biggest well in the area, which gave the drink its name.

This was a popular drink in 18th-century Scotland, used for warding off the dreaded winter cold. However, it is more commonly believed that the drink originated in India before becoming famous in Scotland.

Born in India – the history of hot whiskey

Do you know the history of hot whiskey?
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The word ‘toddy’ is said to have come from the toddy drink in India. This drink is made by fermenting the sap in palm trees.

This version of the hot whiskey history dates back as far as the 1600s, long before the drink started to appear in the pubs of Scotland.

Nowadays, a toddy drink from India can be described as an alcoholic liqueur with hot water, sugar, and spices added to the mix.

Irish origins – could hot whiskey be Irish after all?

The history of hot whiskey is fascinating.
Credit: Flickr / Timothy Krause

Although the history of hot whiskey, Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink, has been traced back to Scotland and India, one more theory suggests that hot whiskey may be Irish after all.

The Irish-born physician Robert Bentley Todd, born in Dublin in 1809, was the first to lay down definite principles for treating serious fever cases.

Todd advocated for raising the standard of medical knowledge. He was widely remembered for his prescription of a hot drink to cure cold symptoms.

This drink contained brandy, canella (white cinnamon), sugar syrup, and water. It was named the ‘hot toddy’, based on the beloved physician’s name.

Could this be how the hot whiskey came to be?

The hot whiskey family – cousins from other cultures

Nordic Glögg.
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If whiskey doesn’t satisfy your tastes, don’t worry. Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink has a horde of cousins from other cultures.

Another beverage called ‘Grog’ is a fiery rum and hot water mixture. This recipe and definition varies from culture to culture.

On the other hand, ‘Glögg’ is a popular Nordic drink defined as a spiced, usually alcoholic, mulled wine or spirit.

Our hot whiskey recipe – how to make your own

Hot whiskey recipe.
Credit: Flickr / Kurman Communications, Inc.

Having read about the history of hot whiskey, Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink, it’s now time to make your own! From the Irish experts to you, here’s all you need to know about making a traditional hot whiskey.

For one serving, you will need a shot of Irish whiskey, two slices of lemon, eight cloves, two teaspoons of sweetener such as brown sugar or honey, and hot water to finish.

In addition, you will need a teaspoon and a glass with a handle on it. You can find glasses online designed especially for hot whiskey. However, a latté glass or any glass with a handle on it will serve the same purpose.

Now you know the history of hot whiskey, you can learn to make your own.
Credit: Instagram / @bistrobianconi

To start, prepare the two lemon slices. Put four cloves in each lemon slice and set aside.

Meanwhile, add a shot of Irish whiskey to your glass, followed by two teaspoons of your sweetener. Then, add a splash of juice from the remaining lemon (optional) and your two lemon slices with the cloves inside.

Next, place your teaspoon in the glass before filling the rest of the glass up with boiling water. Stir and enjoy!

Remember to keep your teaspoon in the glass until your drink starts to cool down, as this will help to prevent the hot water from cracking the glass.

There you have it, the entire history of Ireland’s favourite Christmas drink as we know it. Will you sample a hot whiskey this winter?