It was one of those December New York days that started out bright, sunny and even a little unseasonably warm—an unzipped coat kind of warm. Soon after I set out for the day, it became none of those things, and so I started feeling quite underdressed, a bit damp, and very much like an idiot for deciding that red suede ballet slippers were a great idea for running around Manhattan in the rain. Needless to say, when I got back to Brooklyn to meet a friend for a drink and a long overdue catch-up at Rose’s in the late afternoon, all I wanted was something warm.
I arrived early and chose a spot far away from the wind coming through the often-opening door. I took one glance at the cocktail menu and saw exactly what I wanted: a hot toddy—warmed bourbon made brighter with lemon, honey, and hot water. I caught the bartender’s eye, placed my order, and settled in with the third book about Irish murder detectives I’d read in as many weeks. When I looked up again, the bartender was placing a small white porcelain teapot in front of me, followed by a teacup with only a lemon inside, placed gently on a saucer. It was a hot toddy in a teapot, and I was thrilled.
When I poured the hot toddy over the lemon, a billow of bourbon-laced, dreamy, citrusy steam clouded my eyes for just a second. The sip I took warmed my throat all the way down and when it hit my stomach, heat radiated to the ends of my fingers and down to my still frozen toes. I wrapped my hands around the teacup and settled into my book again, feeling immediately restored. And when my friend got there, and took note of my superlative hot toddy setup, he couldn’t help but order one, too.
The brilliance of the hot toddy is obvious—is anything better than bourbon, lemon, and honey to warm you up on dreary winter day? Serving a toddy like tea was a stroke of genius. It extends the experience: a teacup is, of course, a smaller vessel than the typical mug or hot toddy glass, so within each teapot—even a small one—there are three cups or so to sip on. And fortunately, a porcelain tea set is designed to retain some warmth over a leisurely conversation. So when you’re settling in for an afternoon catch-up, already situated for lingering, having a drink, complete with proper glassware, that encourages just that feels like an almost over-the-top luxury.
And we need more of those, don’t we? Going into the wintertime—and, hell, the dark days of 2017—simple, affordable, luxurious change-ups like a hot toddy in a teapot can give us a little necessary oomph. I’ll raise my teacup to that.