PORTLAND, Maine — It’s single digits outside. Wind whips up the block. Snowbanks are piled waist high and exiting your car is a calculated risk.
But inside the low-slung Portland and Rochester Public House a warm front has arrived.
Bartender Chris Gatchell pours hot water into a mason jar and reaches for a black tea bag.
A shot of bourbon, infused with burnt applewood chips, black pepper, star anise and orange peels, enriches the blend. Steam begins to rise. Next come a lemon wedge and cinnamon stick. A drop of simple syrup flavored with chili peppers completes the potion.
The aroma, evoking a woodsy cabin, fills the air. Hot toddies, right on time.
“It’s a comforting drink, good for upset stomachs. It’s very social and simple,” says Gatchell, who came up with the recipe to soothe the urban outdoorsmen who populate this six-month-old Bayside hideaway.
The vintage cocktail is being discovered by a new generation as the drink of choice for those just getting over a cold or looking to stay warm and sated as the snow flies.
Traditionally, a toddy is any drink made with spirits and hot water. Honey, sugar, tea and citrus are added to taste. As such, variations abound.
“It’s akin to the Bloody Mary,” says Gatchell. “It’s a preferential drink and everyone does it differently. You have to be willing to trust the bartender.”
If you can’t make it to the bar, you can stock your pantry with Royal Rose Simple Syrups for the next blizzard.
Made in Brunswick in small batches, these cocktail staples in flavors such as cardamom clove rise in demand as temps drop.
“Heading into winter we drink bourbon and rums and cognacs and brandy,” said Forrest Butler, a “libation agent,” who tended bar in Detroit and New York before moving to Maine last year with his wife and business partner, Emily Butters. “We thought about the flavor profile and thought of the spices.”
Organic, ground and toasted cardamom pods and cloves are infused with water and sugar, strained, boiled and bottled. This amber syrup is the key ingredient in the apple cider toddy made with lemon, orange, cinnamon, bourbon and cider.
The toddy quickly sprung to mind when cardamom and clove, one of seven syrups in their line, developed.
“It’s a classic for cold weather,” said Butler, whose syrups are designed for the “home cocktail enthusiast to enjoy a high-end, well-balanced drink.”
His toddy can be tweaked with nutmeg or rum.
If using bourbon, Butler suggests “a good blend that’s not super spicy or extremely aged.”
Think young and blendable for a toddy that’s dependable.
“It’s the perfect apres ski drink,” said Butler.
Portland and Rochester Public House is located at 118 Preble St. in Portland. Royal Rose Simple Syrup can be found across the state and online at royalrosesyrups.com.