I’m no doctor but I routinely make people feel better. Sometimes it’s very easy: a glistening gent comes in for a cold beer in the heat of a summer’s day. A lady in a business suit comes in to unwind on Friday afternoon. I can cool him off, and relax her. Can bartenders do more to help our guests feel better? I say yes. Cold and flu season is right around the corner, and there are medicinal cocktails that can ameliorate many symptoms and even shorten the duration of the ailment. An historic trend has returned and it takes advantage of the medicinal properties of alcohol and combines them with homeopathic medicine to create feel-good drinks that can really make you feel better!
People have been concocting their own cough- and cold remedies for hundreds of years. These traditional Western home remedies usually involve some combination of hot water, whiskey, honey and lemon. Their purpose is to provide relief to the patient, suppressing coughs and promoting rest. Rest is very important, because if you are not otherwise immunocompromised, your body already has all the tools it needs to fight minor ailments like the common cold.
Some people object to using alcohol while they have a cold, but in fact, many over-the-counter medications contain up to 10% alcohol. Whiskey has such acceptance that Livestrong.com even recommends different types for different symptoms; bourbon for congestion and sore throat, Irish for persistent cough.
Each ingredient in the commonly-accepted spirited tea has its own natural purpose:
The hot water can loosen phlegm, and inhaling the steam can provide sweet relief to swollen nasal passages.
The labor of bees produces honey, which has been prescribed since Biblical times. There are many varieties of honey, largely differing due to the plants from which it is derived. Buckwheat honey is generally second only to raw honey for natural antibiotic and antiviral properties. Honey boosts immunity and suppresses coughs.
Lemon contains bioflavonoids, which are antioxidants associated with good cellular health. The juice of the lemon is used in cold remedies, and is loaded with Vitamin C, which has been shown to lessen the duration of the cold.
There is wisdom in folk remedies, and the traditional hot toddy formula is soothing and scientifically sound. Can we draw on the folk traditions of other cultures to increase the effectiveness of the medicinal toddy? I believe so. Asian traditional medicine prominently features two ingredients that I think will be beneficial this cold season.
Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices, and has been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to soothe the common cold. The bark of this small tree holds essential oils that explain its unique healing properties. The bark is harvested and rolled into the familiar “quills.” Adding cinnamon to your remedy will provide some antimicrobial properties to slow down the multiplication of germs. Cinnamon is also prized for its “warming” effects, said to sooth the body. Ceylon Cinnamon is said to be the most potent variety, and its bark is soft enough to pulverize using a spice grinder. To make the syrup featured below, I used the more common Cassia Cinnamon quills, simmered and stored in a mixture of honey and water.
Ginger is an important traditional medicine for ailments including dry cough and blocked sinuses. The consumed portion of this lovely flowering plant is its reproductive rhizome, the knobby root used extensively in cuisine and medicine from the tropical Far East. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe it for its own benefits and also use its oil as a carrier, to amplify the effectiveness of other ingredients. It is usually consumed as a tea, as we will use it here.
The Reimagined Toddy
1.5 oz. Cinnamon-infused Honey Syrup (recipe below)
1” Gingerroot, peeled
1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
Muddle the ginger until its oils have been well expressed. Add Bourbon, Syrup and Juice and shake well to combine. Strain into microwaveable cup (not shown), and heat to desired temperature. Sip slowly.
Cinnamon-infused Honey Syrup
Combine .5 c. each Honey and Water in a saucepan over low heat. Add 8 quills of Cinnamon and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and cool. Store if desired, in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For use, strain out the Cinnamon quills.