RECIPE: Faulkner’s Toddies, Both Hot and Cold

Credit: Valery Rizzo
Credit: Valery Rizzo

If you’ve paid attention to the news at all today, then you know that a blizzard is brewing. The new year seems to be coming in like a lion, which is all the more reason to greet it with an aromatic, warm and somewhat stiff drink.

We featured an excerpt from Kings County Distillery’s Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey in our latest issue. The book itself recounts a history of whiskey consumption from 1640 to today, while also giving a detailed rundown of the current whiskey scene. It also serves as a DIY distilling manual with several essential recipes. One of our favorites, especially for a night like tonight, is William Faulkner’s formula for the quintessential toddy (served either hot or cold) as written by former distiller Robert Moor.

We suggest holing up with this and a copy of Faulkner’s Light in August per Moor’s recommendation. Fittingly, it “concerns the exploits of a pair of bootleggers— a topic with which Faulkner was familiar, having run boatfuls of illegal whiskey into New Orleans during Prohibition.”

Toddies, Hot and Cold

2 ounces (60 ml) bourbon or white whiskey
4 ounces (120 ml) water (cold or boiling)
If cold, 1 lemon slice; if hot, ½ lemon; both, juice and rind
1 teaspoon (4g) of sugar

The key to a toddy, according to Faulkner, is that the sugar must be dissolved into a small amount of water before the whiskey is added, otherwise it “lies in a little intact swirl like sand at the bottom of the glass.” (One of Faulkner’s short stories, “An Error in Chemistry,” hinges on this point: a northern murderer, pretending to be a southern gentleman, mistakenly mixes sugar with “raw whiskey”; the Southerners recognize his faux pas and immediately pounce on him.)

Once the sugar is dissolved, the whiskey is poured over it. Top it off, to taste, with the remaining water — preferably, Faulkner writes, “rainwater from a cistern.” Add lemon and serve in a heavy glass tumbler.

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