An Irish cure for what ails ye: A medicinal hot whiskey recipe

An Irish cure for what ails ye: A medicinal hot whiskey recipe

Medical expert’s official opinion on whether Irish whiskey, cloves, sugar, and lemon is a cure to the common cold.

A dram of your finest Irish whiskey, cloves, honey/sugar, and lemon – everything you need for a good night’s sleep, to keep the chill off your bones and ward off that winter cold. Turns out that the science behind the lovely warming drink is on the side of the Irish – a hot whiskey really is medicinal.

While, of course, you should get a flu jab and follow the instructions doled out by your doctor, it seems there’s some truth behind the fact that a hot whiskey really does help you get over the common cold.

Here’s how it works!

Sleepless nights

One of the biggest reasons you feel awful when you have a cold is the lack of sleep. In steps a shot of your best Jameson, Teelings, or even Bushmills (if you’re feeling flush) to help you guide off into a restful sleep.

Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Center at the University of Cardiff in Wales, confirmed it! He told the Telegraph the alcohol acts as a sedative, but he did warn that while the hot water burns off some of the alcohol and over-generous measure of the “uisce beatha” (“water of life”) will detract from the drink’s benefits.

Eccles has in fact proven, through studies, that “if you over-indulge, you’ll block your nose and get a very poor quality of sleep. So long as you’re not overdoing it, it won’t do any harm and it could be beneficial.”

Suffering from aches and pains

Well… this one is obvious! Since whiskey was invented it’s been used as an anesthetic! This wonderful tranquilizer will make you care a lot less about your aches and pains.

Whiskey is a decongestant!

So, according to VinePair, the alcohol in your hot whiskey “dilates the blood vessels, making it easier for your mucus membranes to deal with the infection.”

This is pretty disgusting, but according to Professor Eccles, an expert in colds, “a hot toddy is equivalent to any sort of hot drink. The more it promotes salivation, the more it promotes mucus secretion, and mucus is our first line of defense against bacteria and viruses. That’s why it contains honey and lemon – it stimulates both sweet and sour.”

Cloves and spices

Whether it's cloves, ginger or cinnamin, get it in to ye!

Whether you’re a purist and only use cloves or you like to branch out and include ginger or cinnamon there’s a reason behind including them. Eccles points out that these spices promote salvation, which soothes a sore throat and dry cough.

All in your head?

While Eccles doesn’t quite agree that the hot whiskey is the cure to the common cold, he does agree that each element has its own benefit and when combined they, as the Telegraph put it, “have a potent psychological impact on the drinker.”

Well, that’s enough for us! Whether you’re getting a case of the winter blues or you feel a sniffle coming on, get out the bottle of whiskey and stick on the kettle. But remember, just stick to the one or you might feel the worse for it in the morning.

Here’s our guide and recipe on how to make a classic hot whiskey:

How to make the perfect Irish whiskey hot toddy

Warm-up with this classic Irish cocktail! Whether you call it a hot whiskey or a hot toddy, it’s the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day. Get the full recipe here:


A good Irish whiskey (Jameson or Powers is ideal!)

A heatproof glass

7/8 cloves

2 teaspoons sugar

Slice of lemon

Prep Time: 5 minutes


Fill a kettle to boil hot water.

Place a metal spoon in a glass (will prevent the glass from breaking) into the glass to pre-heat it, before emptying it out.

Cut a slice of lemon, remove the pips and stick some cloves into the fruit.

Put a teaspoon of sugar into the glass followed by a shot of Irish whiskey.  Give the whiskey and sugar mixture a bit of a stir and try to dissolve the lumps.

Add boiling water and then stir.

Add the lemon and additional cloves (if desired) to the mix.

Wrap a wee’ napkin around the glass, so you don’t scald yourself.


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