Hot Drinks With the Power To Heal

Breathe Deep Hot Gin Twist
Breathe Deep Hot Gin Twist

All photos by Amanda Schuster. 

I rarely get sick, but when I do, it's as though my body declares war. A few weeks ago, while everyone was donning their gay apparel and attending holiday festivities, I was stuck for weeks with a nasty bout of bronchitis. No one would be writing longing love songs about me, for every breath I took wheezed, popped and gurgled disturbingly as if my chest was filled with lava and bubble wrap. 

My doctor prescribed NASA-grade antibiotics and had very explicit instructions about how to care for this pestilence. She said I should drink at least three to four hot beverages a day, which is when I voiced one of my biggest concerns: “Can I add alcohol to any of them?”

“You mean like a toddy?” She paused a moment as I hacked like Bill the Cat from the Bloom County comic series. “Fine. One. You can have one toddy a night until you’re better.”

With so much to choose from in my home bar, it was time for Toddy Roulette!

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial tubes leading from the lungs and can feel like drowning. A standard toddy - base spirit, citrus, spices, honey and hot water - is soothing for this and any other type of respiratory distress to calm nerves and temporarily reduce swelling. However, after a couple of days, I got tired of the basic formula and was still in considerable discomfort. I decided to research beverages with stronger anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to see if I could coax nature along.

Not only did I mix up the base spirits, I decided to do some experimentation with the hot liquids added to them. Herewith are the results, which not only afforded me some relief, but are delicious to sip as winter warmers in the best of health.

Breathe Deep Hot Gin Twist

The Hot Gin Twist is a classic 19th century hot cocktail that rarely gets its due. Yogi Breathe Deep tea is a mix of botanicals which help open breathing passages that includes eucalyptus, thyme, licorice, tulsi leaf, ginger, cinnamon, peppermint and cardamom. Sorry to say, sipping this, while tasty as a straight tea, did little to ease the tight constriction in my chest. However, adding gin with a healthy dose of juniper (also known to be good for reducing swelling), lemon and sugar to it was like the clouds parting, not to mention a gift to my tastebuds.

Hot Pisco Cider
Hot Pisco Cider
  • 1 Breathe Deep (or other similar eucalyptus/licorice/cinnamon blend) teabag
  • Hot Water
  • 1.5 oz/44 ml Dry Gin (I made this twice - once with Martin Miller’s Gin and Sipsmith V.J.O.P.)
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Sugar to taste
  • Garnish: lemon twist

Fill a mug 1/2 - 3/4 full with hot water over one teabag, making sure to leave room for other liquid ingredients. Allow to steep for about three minutes then discard the bag. Stir in the gin, lemon juice and sugar (I used about a tsp). Twist the peel over the mug and run it skin-side down over the rim, then drop into the drink. 

Hot Pisco Cider

I grew weary of citrus flavors after a few days, and craved the sweetness of apples, which pairs so beautifully with brandy. You know what they say about an apple a day, well, fresh cider is also well packed with vitamins and antioxidants to help combat that lurgy. Pisco adds just the right punch of flavor to reach stuffed up senses.

Hot Cherry Stomp
Hot Cherry Stomp

Add the pisco and orange to a mug and press gently to release some of the juices. Fill with warm cider and add the honey if using. Stir and add the cinnamon stick.

Hot Cherry Stomp

One of the cocktails I was most craving while I was sick was a Negroni. There just had to be a work-around. When I purchased the cider, I also found something called Sour Cherry Stomp from New York state’s Red Jacket Orchards. Sour cherries are both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory - bingo! The juice is cold-pressed and unfiltered, blended with some apple for sweetness. Mixed with white rum and Campari, it satisfied that boozy, sweet and bitter trifecta I yearned for. Gin, vodka or tequila blanco would also work well here in place of the rum.

Add the rum or gin to a mug with the Campari. Top with hot cherry juice. Twist the orange peel and run it skin-side down along the rim, then add it with the cherries to the drink. 

Chamomile Tea Toddy

When I was finally able to join the living for short stretches, one of the first places I happened to visit was Joe Allen restaurant before an early show. I asked for a hot toddy thinking they’d serve me the standard recipe. However, to my surprise and subsequent delight, they served me a steaming mug of chamomile tea mixed with Irish whiskey, honey and lemon. The combination of flavors was delightful, not to mention chamomile is another excellent balm for inflamed breathing passages or a sore throat.

  • 1.5 oz/44 ml Irish Whiskey
  • Lemon Wheel
  • 1 barspoon Honey
  • Hot, Brewed Chamomile Tea

Brew the tea from either loose, dried blossoms or a teabag. Meanwhile, add the whiskey and lemon to a mug and gently press the lemon to release its juices. Add the honey and the tea. Stir.

To your good health, old friend,

may you live for a thousand years, 

and I be there to count them.

-Robert Smith Surtees