Video by Michael!

Owing to technical difficulties, I was only able to post this to my Instagram account yesterday (please follow and check there first for the video).

It’s gotten so chilly my wife Ann asked me to find the recipe for the best hot toddy she’d ever had, which happened to be at the restaurant Prune, created by chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton. Hamilton, not only a great chef but also an amazing writer, gamely provided it. (Read her harrowing and beautiful NYTimes magazine essay about closing the restaurant when the pandemic hit.)

A hot toddy can be as simple as your basic sour: 2 parts spirit, 1 part each citrus and simple syrup, heated. From that base idea any kind of riffing is possible, spirit, citrus, sweeteners and spices. Gabrielle’s is a perfect example the genre. What makes hers especially appealing is the heavy use of lemon juice, nearly as much lemon as whiskey. A pinch of cayenne gives it a kick. To balance the acid, she adds plenty of honey. Water to taste (in effect you’re creating a honey simple syrup) mellows it all out.

It’s also a terrific batch cocktail to make for distanced outdoor gatherings. Make a big batch and serve it in warm mugs using a thermos (I actually clean out the thermos of my coffee maker—works great to keep it all hot).

This is a fabulous fall/winter cocktail, made here on my West 12th Street fire escape in New York City. For this cocktail hour, two very short poems.

Happy cocktail day everyone!

Gabrielle Hamilton’s Hot Toddy

A whiskey, lemon, honey cocktail from the NYC restaurant Prune
Prep Time 5 mins
Course Cocktail
Cuisine American
Servings 1


  • 2-3/4 ounces Jim Beam (or bourbon of your choice)
  • juice from one lemon (about 2 ounces)
  • 2-1/2 tbsp honey
  • pinch cayenne
  • water to taste (start with 2 tablespoons)
  • lemon wheel for garnish


  • Combine all the ingredients but the lemon wheel in a pan and bring just to a simmer. Pour into a heated mug, and garnish with the lemon wheel
Keyword hot toddy, Whiskey, whiskey cocktail