Hot toddy is the chicken soup of the cock­tail bar

The Kansas City Star - - Chow Town - BY ZAK STAMBOR Chicago Tri­bune

Last win­ter I had a dread­ful cold. The type of cold that seems to never end. The type of cold where your body aches, your head throbs, you can’t ever seem to rid your nose of mu­cus and a rest­ful night of sleep seems im­pos­si­ble. The type of cold where leav­ing the house is the last thing you’d ever want to do.

Nev­er­the­less, I dragged my­self to the phar­macy down the street and bought just about any over-the-counter remedy I could find. Noth­ing seemed to work ex­cept the pas­sage of time.

When I re­turned to work a few days later, a col­league asked how I was feel­ing.

“Not good, but much bet­ter than I was,” I replied.

“Next time, try a hot toddy,” he said.

“Isn’t that an old wives’ tale?” I asked.

“Try it,” he said.

The hot toddy – the sim­ple hot cock­tail con­sist­ing of hot wa­ter, honey, lemon and brown liquor – like chicken soup, has long been touted as a remedy for the com­mon cold. But when I’m feel­ing aw­ful, al­co­hol is the last thing I want to con­sume. That’s why I had never tried a hot toddy when feel­ing un­der the weather – un­til I got an­other cold a few months later.

Be­fore I had an­other rest­less night, I de­cided to give the hot toddy a try. I pulled out a mug, poured in 2 ounces of bour­bon, a ta­ble­spoon of honey and 2 tea­spoons of lemon juice, then topped with a quar­ter cup of hot wa­ter and stirred.

My skep­ti­cism quickly faded. It seemed to work bet­ter than any of the over-the-counter prod­ucts I had tried be­fore. I slept through the night.

While it was no cure, it tem­po­rar­ily relieved my symp­toms, which may make some sense, says Don­ald Hen­srud, a physi­cian in in­ter­nal medicine who also serves as an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion and pre­ven­tive medicine at the Mayo Clinic Col­lege of Medicine and Sci­ence.

Af­ter all, even though there are few “good stud­ies” on the hot toddy, if you look at the in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments you can un­der­stand why the cock­tail of­fers some relief.

“The warmth of the drink may pro­vide symp­to­matic com­fort,” he says. That ex­plains the ef­fec­tive­ness of other tra­di­tional reme­dies that also pro­vide flu­ids, such as chicken soup, which also sup­plies nu­tri­ents, and tea, which also con­tains an­tiox­i­dants.

Then there’s hot lemon wa­ter with honey, which has long been used to soothe a sore throat and to act as a cough sup­pres­sant.

One study, which gave chil­dren who had up­per res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions and were at least 2 years old up to 2 tea­spoons of honey at bed­time, found that the honey seemed to im­prove sleep and re­duce night­time cough­ing. In fact, it was just about as ef­fec­tive as the com­mon cough sup­pres­sant in­gre­di­ent dex­tromethor­phan that’s found in Ro­bi­tussin.

While some have sug­gested the al­co­hol has medic­i­nal ben­e­fits – such as its abil­ity to fight in­fec­tion – Hen­srud is skep­ti­cal, not­ing that it can ac­tu­ally cause some con­ges­tion and may af­fect im­mune func­tion.

But those neg­a­tive ef­fects may not mat­ter in lim­ited amounts. And there may ac­tu­ally be an­other ef­fect: Like Nyquil, it can help you get to sleep.

And rest, along with flu­ids, are the key in­gre­di­ents to cold relief.

ABEL URIBE Chicago Tri­bune/TNS

The hot toddy is the sim­plest of drinks: Com­bine your choice of brown spirit, such as bour­bon or rum, with lemon juice, honey and hot wa­ter.

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