November 30, 2012

A Non-Alcoholic Hot Tea Toddy & A Photography Exercise

t has been my experience, many a time, that good things come out of not-so-good situations. Both my food blog and my photography have been the results of times in my life when things could have been better.
As most of you would know, I was in Chennai about 10 days back and I came back home from that trip carrying a lot of good memories of meeting family and good friends, my first photography workshop, loads of good food and some prop shopping. Unfortunately, I also came back with a bad sore throat and fever.
A chance remark about this had my sister suggesting it was time to warm up my throat with a hot toddy (non-alcoholic of course). In Southern India, toddy (from the word “tari”) is an alcoholic drink made from the fresh or fermented sap of coconut palms. Whereas in Britain, toddy is a hot drink, sweetened with honey or sugar and spiked with alcohol, used to relieve the symptoms of colds or sore throats in adults.

There are many accounts of the origins of the hot toddy, the most popular one (not surprisingly) being that the hot toddy came from Britain from India, with the British came up with their own version using spices, citrus fruit, and alcohol. Another version suggests the name Toddy comes from “Tod’s Well” which supplied the Scottish city of Edinburg with water. Now whiskey (used in Hot Toddy) derives its name from the Scottish “uisge beatha”, the term for water and so  it is thought that Toddy was another name for whisky!
The main liquid in a hot toddy is usually how water though there are recipes that call for tea, lemonade or cider. Traditionally, the most often choice of alcohol for toddy was whisky. As a soothing concoction for colds and coughs, the honey and spices were to soothe an irritated throat as well as flavour the toddy, while the alcohol ensured a good and peaceful sleep. The citrus fruit, usually lemon was to provide the Vitamin C boost against the cold.
Hot toddy is usually sipped just like any other hot beverage, but there are some who feel knocking it back in one gulp is more beneficial as it would jolt one out of one’s “common cold blues”! How on earth does one “knock back” a hot drink without burning one’s tongue and throat?

So I went looking for a non-alcoholic version of a hot toddy and came across so many versions (mostly alcohol laden) that I now had a fuzzy head too. I finally concocted my own version of a Hot Toddy. So that’s something good that came out of my sore throat – a recipe for Hot Toddy that I would happily drink even if I wasn’t well. Refrigerate this Toddy and serve it cold in summer for a delightful thirst quencher. And since it is tea and fruit juice based, you can serve it to children as well.
For freshly brewed tea, use a tea of your preference though I would suggest a mildly flavoured one rather than a strong tea. The same goes for honey, so use a mild flavoured on or it will change the flavour of the Toddy. You can also use jaggery or brown sugar if you prefer, instead of honey.
If you can use unsweetened and fresh fruit juice use that otherwise whatever is available is just fine. The amounts of honey and spices in this recipe are just a guideline and please feel free to adjust it all to suit you.
This Hot Toddy also turned out to be perfect for me to join Simone’s monthly photography challenge. This month’s theme is “Food/ Drink in a Glass” and as usual, I’m just in time to meet the deadline.
An excellent way to shoot liquids/ beverages in a glass or glasses (and thought to be the best way by most photographers), is to use back light. This means that the main light comes from behind your subject and shines through the liquid lighting it up and showing it to perfection.
One of things I learnt from a photographer and friend who taught me some of the basics of photography was that it was good to know the “rules/ guidelines” of photography but it was even better to break them if one could, but successfully.

And that is what I have tried today. All the photographs in this post were shot hand-held, with a 50mm/ f1.8 lens, as I had reasonably good light even though I had to shoot a slightly higher ISO of 640. Of course, I would have been better off shooting at ISO 100 on a tripod but my camera handles ISO 640 quite well so I took the risk!
The light comes from the right and a little at the back (about 1:00 - 2:00pm position). This works for me because my Hot Toddy is a bit “cloudy” and there is no “texture” in my drink or on the glass that I would like to highlight in particular. I could have blocked out the “highlights” on the glass but I prefer to think they add character and an “au naturale” feel to the photographs.
And here’s the recipe for my Hot Tea Toddy. Go on; don’t wait till you have a sore throat to make it. 

Non-Alcoholic Hot Tea Toddy


1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 cup freshly brewed tea
2 tbsp honey/ brown sugar/ jaggery (or to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly powdered cinnamon
2 cloves powdered
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp powdered star anise
1/2 tsp powdered dried ginger
1/2 tsp freshly crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp chai masala



Put the tea, juices and honey in a pan and bring it to a boil on medium heat while stirring frequently. Add all the spices, and let the Toddy simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let the spices steep in the toddy for about 5 minutes.
Strain the Toddy into a jug and pour it out into four Toddy glasses or glass mugs of your choice. Serve hot. This recipe makes 4 cups of Hot Tea Toddy. You can double the proportions for a double batch if you’re planning to serve more people or as a chilled beverage.