Written by Steph Rodriguez

Cozy up with a hot toddy

Mad King Charles Hot Toddy

Karina Martinez’ original, award-winning recipe, the Mad King Charles, served to judges at the 2012 Hot Toddy Competition at Golden Bear where she took No. 1. Photo courtesy of Karina Martinez

A seasonal adult beverage that warms the bones and comforts the soul is the classic hot toddy. Designed to take away the aches of the cold season, this traditional beverage dates as far back as the 17th century when liquor, water, herbs, and spices were combined and served hot.



It’s a beverage typically enjoyed just before bedtime, and throughout its long history, the hot toddy has beckoned many bartenders to try their hands at reinventing the comforting concoction.

A hot toddy begins with either hot water or herbal tea, then it’s spiced with a bit of cloves, cinnamon, or allspice; sweetened with a spoonful of sugar or honey; and, for the kick, a hot toddy relies on two ounces of bourbon, whiskey, rum, or brandy.

Traditional garnishes for a warm mug of this wintertime elixir are lemon slices, orange peels, or cinnamon sticks, each adding its own distinct layer of flavors and aromas.

Inside Sacramento’s busiest bars — it’s hot toddy season — as creative variations of this age-old beverage are found on drink menus during the colder, wetter months.

Karina Martinez, a bartender at Bottle & Barlow and The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, is an award-winning hot toddy maker who competes in The Golden Bear’s annual hot toddy competition, where she took No. 1 in 2012 and No. 3 in 2016.

Martinez says she draws inspiration for her original recipes by looking into the ingredients’ history. Before she perfected her award-winning Mad King Charles hot toddy recipe, she learned that the word toddy comes from the toddy beverage in India that’s made from fermented palm tree sap. As she dug deeper into the past, Martinez also discovered that the British adopted the toddy liquor from India and later combined it with tea. The rest is history.

Poking around the toddy’s past, Martinez also found a poem by Sir Thomas Herbert, who was an English traveler and a trusted gentleman of the bedchamber to King Charles I, for whom her drink is named.

“… at first draught uncouthly relisht, but every draught tastes better and better, and will easily inebriate; a little makes men merry; too much makes them mad; extreme is mortal; in the morning ’tis laxative; in the eve costive; at midnight dangerous.”

With the inspiration from Sir Herbert’s poem about hot toddies combined with her research of both British and Indian teas and spices, Martinez wanted to create a recipe in honor of those flavors from the past, such as bitter orange, allspice, herbal tea, and vanilla-infused bourbon.

“To me, a hot toddy is like the chicken noodle soup of the adult beverage world,” Martinez says. “It should be calming and comforting and make you feel like you want to cozy up by a fire.”

Ready to try one at home? Here’s Martinez’s award-winning recipe!

Mad King Charles

(courtesy of Karina Martinez, bartender, Bottle & Barlow in Sacramento. Serves 1)

Ingredients found at Total Wine & More, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market locations

2 ounces of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, pre-infused with orange peel and vanilla bean (instructions below)

1 teaspoon allspice dram

¼ teaspoon Torani Amer Liqueur (1:1*)

½ cup granulated sugar

1 bag Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus Tea

Victoria’s Kitchen Almond Water, enough to fill a mug

1 Valencia orange

1 vanilla bean pod

Candied orange peel, for garnish

For infused bourbon:

Pour Buffalo Trace Bourbon into Mason jar. Peel orange and add peels to jar. Split vanilla bean pod down the middle add to jar. Screw on lid and steep 24 hours. Strain infused bourbon.

* Create a 1:1 ratio by combining ½ cup of Torani Amer Liqueur to ½ cup granulated sugar. Blend equal parts in blender and use ¼ teaspoon of this mixture for recipe.

Heat almond water in kettle on stove. In mug, combine infused bourbon, Torani Amer Liquor mixture, allspice dram, and hot almond water. Add tea bag and let hot toddy steep 5 minutes before pulling out bag. Enjoy!

Or try this recipe, provided by Gabriel Aiello of Burly Beverages!

 Old Timey Switchel Hot Toddy 2

Burly Beverages founder and co-owner Gabriel Aiello’s Old Timey Hot Toddy Switchel. Photo courtesy of Burly Beverages


Old Timey Switchel Hot Toddy

(courtesy of Gabriel Aiello, founder, co-owner, of Burly Beverages in Sacramento, Calif. Serves 1)

2 ounces bourbon, whiskey, or brandy

2 ounces Burly Beverages Honey-Lemon Switchel

4 ounces spring water, piping hot

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Garnish (optional): 1 cinnamon stick or 1 curled lemon peel

In  mug or glass of choice, combine bourbon, Burly Beverages Honey-Lemon Switchel, Angostura bitters, and piping hot spring water. Garnish with cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Enjoy!

NOTE: This is a sponsored post.

steph rodriguez

Steph Rodriguez is an award-winning freelance journalist who keeps a close eye on the food and music scene in Sacramento. With more than 10 years’ experience as a writer, she crafts stories that mirror the vast and diverse culture of the region. From entertainment and lifestyle features, to profiles with a farm-to-fork interest, she aims to capture the best of Sacramento.