Your Football Party Needs This Slow-Cooker Hot Toddy
Skip the boring beer and upgrade to this crowd-pleasing cocktail instead.
To find the perfect drink for any big game party no matter whether you’re rooting for the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles or the halftime show, I turned to a bartender with absolutely no stake in the outcome of the game: a Canadian. “I’m only a Canadian Football League fan,” says Winnipeg mixologist Joel Carleton, before informing me that the CFL was founded well before the National Football League. “I’m actually wearing a Winnipeg Blue Bombers toque right now!”
Thankfully, Carleton has plenty of expertise when it comes to wintertime drinks. A native of Manitoba, he’s been serving up cocktails in central Canada since 2010, and the company he founded, The Bee’s Knees Bar Services, has created craft-cocktail programs for and trained staff at some of the best restaurants and bars in town.
For a football watch party, Carleton suggests making a big batch of an apple cider-based Hot Toddy. “With hot drinks, we’re focusing on the ability of heat to marry flavors together, but the trick is that you can’t do too much heat — you don’t want it to boil,” he says. Carleton’s secret to keeping a hot drink for a crowd at the ideal temperature? A slow cooker! “When someone wants a drink, you just lift the lid, ladle it in the mug and add whatever booze and garnish,” he explains.
Carleton’s Apple-Cinnamon Slow Cooker Hot Toddy couldn’t be easier and is the perfect way to keep a crowd warm and well-lubricated during your big game celebration. It’s a simple mix of apple cider, sugar and cinnamon that’s happy to sit in a slow cooker or simmering on the stove as long as you need it. It’s also infinitely customizable, as each person can add as much or as little of whatever spirit they like—or even none at all. Carleton recommends an aged spirit with a sweeter profile, like Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, Jim Beam Bourbon or Zacapa Rum. Calvados, an apple brandy from France, is also a favorite of his in this drink. Just use a light pour: “I find when I make these at home, you can really screw it up by putting too much liquor in,” Carleton says. “It’s not meant to be a strong tipple; it’s a warming, comforting beverage.”
Just as important as keeping the toddy mixture just below boiling (Carleton recommends about 80 degrees C, or 176 degrees F) is squeezing a fresh lemon wedge into each drink just as you make it. “The finish is huge because it adds that fresh, bright acidity,” he says. “It’s a wicked little recipe.”
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Apple-Cinnamon Slow Cooker Hot Toddy
By Joel Carleton | The Bee's Knees Bar Services | Winnipeg, Canada
- 8 oz. water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 1 gallon fresh-pressed apple cider
- 5 dashes apple bitters (may substitute Angostura or your favorite cocktail bitters), plus more to taste
- whiskey, brandy or rum
- lemon wedges studded with cloves
Two to four hours before the party starts, add all the ingredients except the whiskey, brandy or rum to a slow cooker set to high. (You can also use a large pot on the stove over low heat instead; if so, start the process about an hour before the party.) Stir every 10 minutes for the first half hour or so, until the sugar dissolves completely. Cover and let stand until hot. Turn the slow cooker to low to keep the mixture warm during the party.
To make individual drinks, add 1 oz. or less of whiskey, brandy or rum to a mug other heat-proof vessel and fill with the hot cider mixture (or make a virgin Toddy by leaving out the alcohol entirely). Garnish with a lemon wedge studded with 3 whole cloves — squeeze the wedge into the drink and then drop it in as well.