The Extra Crispy team is down for the count, felled by—as our culture editor Margaret Eby calls it—the “vague plague.” We’re all hacking, wheezing, sniffling, and grumbling our way through this gross winter day. I can’t speak for the rest of my colleagues, but as soon as the whistle blows and I am no longer responsible for stringing together breakfast thoughts in a halfway coherent fashion, I’m fully planning on pouring a hot toddy into my face. Yeah, yeah, cold medicine contraindications and whatnot aside, a hot toddy is, for me, the surefire way to reboot my system when I’m at my snotty, snurfling worst. The combination of lemon juice, honey, hot water, and brown liquor clears my sinuses, soothes my ragged throat, and warms me from the inside out.

But perhaps I’m not thinking presidentially enough. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was a well-documented gastronome and farmer who used the grounds of his home at Monticello to experiment with breeding and cultivating fruits and vegetables from around the globe to see if they could thrive in the blazing, humid summers and cold, dank winters of Virginia. Apples were a particular obsession of his, and the Albemarle Pippin was noted to be one of his two favorite kinds. (The other was Esopus Spitzenburg—which totally needs to be my new drag name—and both are still grown at Monticello.) 

Trawling through presidential archives and historical cookbooks, as I am wont to do, I came across Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for apple toddy. It contains no citrus, and it’s served cold, but as further research has revealed, a toddy is a beverage that’s “usually” served hot. (Which might explain why they tend to be called “hot toddies” on menus, rather than that being the default. Today I learned and grew.)

But, back to the business at hand: Thomas Jefferson’s apple toddy. Is it what I was thinking of as a toddy? No, it looks like a hella-strong punch to me, but he was an apple-loving president (albeit a highly problematic one) and I’m just a breakfast journalist with a gnarly cold, willing to try just about anything. Bottoms up—though I just might stick my punch glass in the microwave first.

Thomas Jefferson’s Apple Toddy 

Reprinted from Beverages and Sauces of Colonial Virginia, 1607-1907

Mode. — Pour over eighteen pippin apples well roasted (without burning) one gallon of boiling
water, and let it stand till cold ; then press through a sieve to remove skin and seeds. Add to the
mixture two quarts of sugar, one quart of brandy, one quart of rum, one quart of sherry, one pint of madeira, one-half pint of arrack, one-half pint of peach brandy, one-half pint of curacao liqueur, and one grated nutmeg. Mix well and serve in punch glasses.