Written by Suzie // November 18, 2020
Ah, Autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as Keats once said; or sniffles, damp weather and treacherous dog poop hiding under those beautiful fallen leaves. And let’s face it, if 2020 has been anything to go by so far, it is definitely going to be a season of those nasties under the leaves, isn’t it?
However, this season is also the season that we start to look forward to the ‘C’ word, and for once, I’m not talking about the ‘Rona, even if I do find myself sitting here, quietly breathing a sigh of relief that the test I had taken yesterday came back negative! That’s right, gin lovers, I’m talking about Christmas! Or, more specifically, I’m talking about those lovely little hot tipples that can be excused as warmers, medicinal aids or just plain cosy comforts. Obviously, I’m not saying you need an excuse to drink cocktails, warm or cold, but sometimes it helps to have an answer to either fire back or to use as a means of persuasion, doesn’t it?
Sometimes, at this time of year, we just need the warmth and cosiness that a hot toddy or a mulled wine can bring. The aroma seems to send us to a Dickensian Christmas scene (I’m thinking the joy of the Cratchits rather than the deathly disembodied hand sliding out from beneath the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) and envelops us in an embrace of yuletide joy and happiness. I love the build-up to the festive season, right up until about 7.00am on Christmas Day, and then I do Scrooge in reverse, but leading up to that, I want all the Christmas trimmings. However, my family disagree, and I can’t officially start celebrating until December 2nd at the very earliest (the day after my youngest child’s birthday) so for me, the winter drinks are a great way to start celebrating subversively, and this year I’ve found that I’ve been able to add a few more to my repertoire!
The Hot Toddy is, perhaps, traditionally one of our go-to cocktails in winter time to ward off those chills, fevers and ailments that this season tends to bring. Even my mum, who is not of the cocktail-making persuasion, is one of the first to turn to her drinks cabinet at the hint of a sniffle. Did you know, though, that disagreements are in abundance over the origin of this drink? As an English teacher by trade, I always love a bit of etymology, and the word ‘toddy’ has not let me down! The original ‘hot toddy’ is believed to have been invented by Irishman Dr Robert Bentley Todd in the 19th century: a spicy prescribed mix of brandy, cinnamon, brown sugar and hot water. However, earlier records note that the Hindi word ‘taddy’, going as far back as 1610, meant ‘beverage made from fermented palm sap’. Yum! However, by 1786, this definition had evolved into ‘beverage made of liquor with hot water, sugar and spices’. History is a funny thing, though, isn’t it? I mean, one man’s thief is another man’s philanthropist. Just ask the Sheriff of Nottingham! The truth of the matter is probably more likely to be the case that the toddy was born out of a mix of all of these things. Let’s face it, booze has been (in the past) a cure-all for centuries! Pain? Have some alcohol! No antiseptic? Use vodka! Sleepless baby? Brandy in their bottle! (Ok, for the record, I do not, cannot, will not condone this last one.)
So where does that leave us, readers of a gin blog? Well, my friends, today I give you my version: The Kemsing Toddy! My version was borne out of both necessity and curiosity: I was feeling under the weather, cold, but also looking for my next little bit of cocktail inspiration, and this one is an absolute doddle to make: as simple as making a cup of tea!
You will need:
Juice of half an orange (vitamin C, obviously!)
Honey to taste (some like it sweeter than others, but don’t forget, my version of the toddy uses orange juice to accentuate the botanicals within the gorgeous Kemsing, so don’t go silly with this one.)
Pop everything into a cup (be fancy and use one with a saucer!), top up with hot water and stir! Pop a slice of orange into it, and curl up under a blanket with a good book while your fire blazes away in the background. (Note: for those without a fireplace, I am aware that certain internet streaming sites have videos of log fires that are so realistic you can almost smell the wood smoke…
For our next cocktail, we’re going to go back to Dickens, allegedly a huge fan of punch! Scrooge even offers to discuss working matters with Bob Cratchitt over a bowl of Steaming Bishop, so what could be more quintessentially British when it comes to winter warmers than a toasty warm glass of spicy apply fruitiness? I have heart warming images of this being ladled into tankards in dimly-lit cosy taverns along the banks of the misty Thames, gas lamps flickering in the twilight. I love a bit of Dickensian romance!
The Kemsing Spiced Apple Punch (serves 1 but could easily be upscaled for a socially distanced gathering)
50ml Kemsing Gin
200ml apple juice
Sprinkling of demerara sugar (more if you have a sweet tooth, but don’t forget the apple juice is also sweet)
Dash freshly squeezed orange juice
Add your gin to a heat-proof glass, in preparation for adding the rest of the ingredients. Pop all of the other ingredients into a small saucepan (obviously you’ll need a bigger pan if you’re making for more than just yourself, you generous thing, you!) and warm over a low to mid heat, stirring so that the sugar doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. When the steam starts to rise, test carefully by taking a small spoonful from the pan, and if it is warm enough, strain over your waiting gin. Garnish with a slice or two of apple and the cinnamon stick from your pan. Don’t forget that the gin will cool your drink a little, so enjoy quickly!
My last cocktail for you is slightly more sophisticated – or, because of the glass I used, I think it looks more sophisticated. Obviously, you can pimp it up whichever way you choose! This is the Hot Kemsing Old-Fashioned Style.
You will need:
A few dashes of orange bitters
10ml sugar syrup (you can make your own by heating equal parts of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. If you are doing this, can I suggest adding a strip of orange zest to flavour the syrup?)
50ml hot water (just off the boil)
Heat the gin, syrup and bitters gently in a small pan. After a few minutes (you don’t want to burn the alcohol after all!) add the water to the pan. Stir and add to your waiting glass. Garnish lavishly and enjoy!