drinkable reno-tahoe


Imbibe new twists on the age-old cocktail.



With winter upon us, bartenders and mixologists throughout the Reno-Tahoe area are warming folks up with their takes on the traditional hot toddy. The toasty libation most often is made with whiskey, honey, lemon, and hot water, while some prefer to use hot tea as the heating mechanism. For centuries, these pleasant libations have been renowned for their medicinal purposes.

"Hot toddy vapors help with congestion. As alcohol dilates the blood vessels, it breaks down any mucous and helps white blood cells fight off colds," explains Ilona Smith-Martinez, United States Bartender's Guild Reno Chapter vice president and bartender at the Peppermill Resort Hotel, in Reno. "The more herbal you go, the better they will help. Some of the best lavender in the world is grown in Reno. This, combined with a good local honey, gives a big boost to the immune system."

It has another great benefit as well, Smith-Martinez says.

"The hot toddy also acts as a beautiful sleep sedative," she says, "that will help knock you out so you can get a good night's rest."

Celebrating the ingredients of the season, here are a few recipes to try at home, whether you're feeling a little under the weather or just are looking for a steaming treat to take the edge off cold nights.

Heidi Bethel, owner of Bethel Communications and Events, spent many years tending bar and enjoys making warm cocktails during the wintry months. While she hopes to avoid the cold and flu this season, if she does get sick, she definitely will enjoy a hot toddy to help soothe the pain.

Grey is Good

(courtesy of Ilona Smith-Martinez, bartender, Peppermill Resort Hotel, in Reno. Serves 1)

3 tablespoons local Tahoe Blue vodka

2 tablespoons honey lavender syrup (recipe to follow)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Earl grey tea bag

Hot water

In a mug, stir honey lavender syrup and hot water until dissolved. Add tea bag, lemon juice, and vodka. Stir and enjoy!

For honey lavender syrup: Mix ½ cup local honey, ¼ cup dried lavender, and ½ cup water in small saucepan, and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Cool and transfer to airtight container. Store up to 2 weeks.

Not Your Common Toddy

(courtesy of Ilona Smith-Martinez, bartender, Peppermill Resort Hotel, in Reno. Serves 1)

1 bottle local Common Cider's Blood Orange Tangerine flavor

3 tablespoons local Seven Troughs whiskey

1 teaspoon raw sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat cider, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan until hot. Add whiskey to mug, then fill with cider mixture.

Burnt Orange Toddy

(courtesy of Patrick Dalton, general manager, Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar, in Reno. Serves 1)

2 tablespoons local Churchill Vineyards brandy

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier orange liqueur

Hot water

Orange peel

In a mug, mix brandy, Grand Marnier, and hot water. Cut an orange peel about the size of a quarter, then light a match. Squeeze and pass orange zest through flame, causing a small flaming effect. Add zest to drink, giving toddy a nice burnt-orange sheen on top. Don't leave the zest in too long or the drink may become bitter.

Moody's Hot Toddy

(courtesy of JJ Morgan, managing partner, Moody's Bistro, Bar & Beats, in Truckee, Calif. Serves 1)

3 tablespoons Bulleit bourbon

1 teaspoon vanilla pear honey syrup (recipe to follow)

Juice of half a fresh lemon

Dash nutmeg

Dash cinnamon

Hot water

To a mug, add vanilla pear honey syrup and hot water, and stir until dissolved. Add bourbon, lemon juice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Dip one end of a fresh pear slice into cinnamon and sugar, then use for garnish.

For vanilla pear honey syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine 2 peeled and chopped Bosc pears, seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean, 2 cups water, ¼ cup unrefined sugar, and ¼ cup raw, local honey. Heat all of the ingredients to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and mash any remaining pears until smooth. Cool and store in an airtight container. Store up to 2 weeks.

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