“I’b biserable,” I shnuffled from my sickroom-sweaty side of the bed. Dan didn’t answer. “I’b biserable!” I shouted, then broke into a coughing fit of such violent proportions that, well, I’ll spare you the details – not that I don’t want to describe my mucus with the vividness and color one associates with a great travelogue or restaurant review, but it would be edited out anyway on grounds of revulsion. Dan came rushing in from the living room. I was wiping something yellowy-chartreuse from my upper lip. “You’re a mess, honey,” he said, quoting Dietrich in Touch of Evil.

“Da-a-an?” I cooed.

“I know that tone,” he said warily. “What do you want now?”

“A hod doddy.”

“A what?”

“A hod doddy!” I said before expelling more green stuff from my lungs.

“Oh, a hot toddy. I have no idea how to make one. You’re the cocktails guy.”

I wasn’t fond of this aspect of Dan’s personality – the willful ignorance of domestic tasks. Three Harvard degrees, a job that demands brilliance, research grants so plentiful that they remind me of The Producers (50 percent of his time gets charged to this grant, 30 percent to that one, 40 percent to another, a little 20 percent grant to top it off….). And he can’t sew on a button, locate a colander, or bake be a dabbed hod doddy!

“Neber mide,” I said. I wrapped myself in a heavy hooded robe that made me look like a Trappist, shuffled into the kitchen, rooted through the liquor cabinet, and promptly knocked over the bottle of herb-infused Absolut I’d made in the fall. “Shid!” I cried after the glass shattered on the merciless tiles. What was left of my Scarborough Fairs spread quickly across the floor. Dan, contrite at forcing me to make my own drink, kindly offered to clean up the mess. When I returned to the kitchen, the only remnant of my delightful autumn tincture was the faint aroma of rosemary.

“Dis id de way de world will end – not wid a whimper but wid a hideous and defeadig crash,” I said sadly and snottily. I found the bourbon and gripped it like a barbell dangling over my head.

You can make a hot toddy out of practically any liquor, but the darker ones – whiskey, bourbon, scotch, brandy – are the classics. You can also use hot tea as a base. But I like cocktails to be cocktails and tea and coffee to be just tea and coffee. (There will be no Irish Coffee column, for instance, because it’s repugnant.) And I only drink hot toddies when I’m sick. The combination of those good old-fashioned cold fighters, honey and lemon, with a scientifically proven germ killer, bourbon, works best for me when I’m hacking up thick, slippery blobs of sputum that look like somebody made Jello out of thin, rotten pea soup and…. oh, right. Forget it.

The hot toddy
Boil 1/4 to 1/3 cups of water. Into a mug or heatproof glass, pour enough honey to coat the bottom. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, and give it a stir. Pour in the amount of bourbon you think will kill enough germs to make the drink seem healthy. (Most recipes call for two tablespoons, but that’s like taking an antibiotic for which the bacteria is thoroughly resistant.) Pour in the boiling water, stir, and enjoy the drink’s curative effects.

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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