No Southern Recipe Box is Complete Without William Faulkner's Hot Toddy Recipe

A stellar hot toddy recipe is hard to find. While there are thousands of recipes out there, especially on Pinterest alone, I tend to be a purist. To me, the perfect hot toddy recipe has three things: liquor, hot water, and fresh lemon juice. Anything fancier feels closer to a mulled wine recipe. I don't want a complex recipe that requires more than three steps because more often than not, I'm fighting a cold when I'm whipping up hot toddies at home.

When I stumbled across William Faulkner's hot toddy recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks I received for Christmas this year, I knew I had to share this incredible recipe. The cookbook, The Great American Writers' Cookbook by Dean Faulkner Wells, was produced in 1981 and has a treasure trove of recipes that really highlight American cuisine from all regions of the country. You can find both new and used versions on Amazon. Now, back to this beautifully simple recipe.

As Dean Faulkner Wells writes in this cookbook, this hot toddy was his cure for anything from "a bad spill from a horse to a bad cold, from a broken leg to a broken heart." Already Faulkner sounds like the kind of man who has a good recipe up his sleeve. Faulkner's niece gave the recipe in the book, and it was featured by Maud Newton in 2011.

Pappy alone decided when a Hot Toddy was needed, and he administered it to his patient with the best bedside manner of a country doctor.

He prepared it in the kitchen in the following way: Take one heavy glass tumbler. Fill approximately half full with Heaven Hill bourbon (the Jack Daniel's was reserved for Pappy's ailments). Add one tablespoon of sugar. Squeeze 1/2 lemon and drop into glass. Stir until sugar dissolves. Fill glass with boiling water. Serve with potholder to protect patient's hands from the hot glass.

Pappy always made a small ceremony out of serving his Hot Toddy, bringing it upstairs on a silver tray and admonishing his patient to drink it quickly, before it cooled off. It never failed.

So let's go over that one more time, in common recipe form.


  • Bourbon (Heaven Hill or Jack Daniel's preferred)

  • 1 Tbsp sugar

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced into glass

  • Boiling water


  • Fill a heavy glass tumbler with bourbon until half full. Add sugar.
  • Squeeze lemon juice into glass, and drop lemon half directly in when finished. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  • Fill glass with boiling water. Serve!

How's that for simple? I've made this recipe a few times and noted the changes. Sometimes I add a big glug of honey. I've been known to stir it with a cinnamon stick and add a lemon peel or cloves. If you prefer a richer flavor, you can swap in brown sugar for white sugar, and use Irish whiskey.

No matter how you make it, whether it's with agave nectar or apple cider, it's hard to argue with the staying power of the hot toddy cocktail. This common cold remedy is a necessity during flu season, and few nightcaps are as simple to make as this on a cold winter night. Your sore throat doesn't stand a chance against a Meyer lemon slice dunked into a steaming coffee mug.

The next time you have a hankering for a hot toddy, channel your inner Southern Gothic and pour up this classic cocktail from Faulkner himself.

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