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Toddys and Slings


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Was recently watching an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain traveled to Kerala, India.

In the episode he visited two establishments which gave me pause, a Toddy Shop and a Tea Shop.

While I know the idea of “Punch” was likely adapted by the British from Indian Roots and the Indians have a pretty good claim on being among the first to distill spirits for consumption, I hadn’t given much thought to what else they may have contributed to drink culture.

Toddies and Slings are booze plus water, sugar, and maybe a garnish. Along with Punch, they were among the most popular drinks in America during the early years of the country.

In India, Toddy Shops are bar-like places that serve Palm Wine and food. Palm Wine is a fermented beverage made by harvesting the sap of Toddy Palm Trees. It spontaneously ferments, making a low alcohol beverage similar to Mexican beverage Pulque. These shops are gathering places for men, and often serve food as a sop to their Toddy, or maybe Toddy as a salve to the spicy Indian Food. One way, or another, they are gathering places, where men, food, and alcoholic beverages converge.

It puzzles me how the word “Toddy” may have migrated to or from India, to refer to a ubiquitous American beverage of the 18th and 19th Century. Or was the transfer the other way?

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Couple references:

From the Answers.com Hinglish Dictionary:

toddy

noun (the hot alcoholic drink)

Word origin: 17th century: from Hindi tārī 'juice of the palmyra palm' (because a similarly intoxicating drink was prepared from fermented palmyra sap), from tār 'palmyra palm', from Sanskrit tāra

From the Answers.com Food Lovers Companion:

pl. toddies [TOD-ee] Although toddy has different meanings around the world, in the United States and Britain, it refers to a hot water-based drink, generally spiced and liberally laced with alcohol. The word comes from tari, the Hindu word used for the sap or juice of a palm tree. In Asia, this sap was often fermented to create an alcoholic beverage. British sailors picked up on the idea, which eventually evolved into the toddy.

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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The Online Etymological Dictionary says:

1610s, alteration of taddy (1611), tarrie (1609) "beverage made from fermented palm sap," from Hindi tari "palm sap" (in which the -r- sounds close to an English -d-), from tar "palm tree," from Skt. tala-s, probably from a Dravidian language (cf. Kannada tar, Telugu tadu). Meaning "beverage made of alcoholic liquor with hot water, sugar, and spices" first recorded 1786.

--

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As far as I know the Scottish toddy is not derived from the Indian one, either etymologically or mixologically.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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It puzzles me how the word “Toddy” may have migrated to or from India, to refer to a ubiquitous American beverage of the 18th and 19th Century. Or was the transfer the other way?

Dave is correct, some have linked the Scottish toddy with the Indian one but it's unlikely, particularly when you consider the info I'm about to post.

I have been researching drinking Scottish drinking culture and have found some interesting info regarding toddys which were an extremely popular drink, especially in Aberdeen where I live. Here's some info I posted on my blog a few months back that I think may answer your question;

This style of drink would more closely resemble what most people nowadays refer to as a Hot Toddy as opposed to a punch.

With regards the toddy, there is some belief that the name toddy may have derived from the traditional Indian beverage of the same name, which is made from the sap of palm trees. It's easy to see why there may be a link to India if you take into account how similar a traditional Indian Punch (arrack, sugar, lemon, tea, water) is to what we'd call a Hot Toddy (whisky, sweetener, lemon juice, hot water and sometimes spices), although I believe that's a tenuous link and it's more likely that toddy was an old Scottish term for water.

This is believed to relate to 'Tod's Well' which used to supply Edinburgh with water. This is referenced in Scottish poet Allan Ramsay's 'The Morning Interview' (Pages 16-17), published in the early 1700s.

"A sumptuous Treat does crown the ended War,

And all rich Requisites are brought from far,

The Table boasts its being from JAPAN,

The ingenious work of some great artisan.

CHINA, where potters coarsest Mould refine,

That Light through the transparent jar does shine,

The costly plates and Dishes are from thence,

And AMAZONIA must her Sweets dispense;

To her warm Banks, our vessels cut the Main,

For the sweet Product of her luscious Cane;

Here SCOTIA does no costly Tribute bring,

Only some Kettles of + TODIAN spring."

-----------------------------------------------------------

+ TOD'S-WELL which supplies the City with Water

With the name of the spring in mind, and taking into account the style of writing in the poem, it may be assumed that 'toddy' was an amusing term for water in Scotland. This belief is strengthened by the fact that whisky at the time was referred to as aqua, also remembering whisky took its name from water (uisge). So water was toddy, and whisky was aqua.

Here's a link to an article from the New York Times, printed on January 1st 1871 - http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9402E6DB133EEE34BC4953DFB766838A669FDE.

Edited by evo-lution (log)

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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Cool, thanks for the clarification. The link seemed a bit tenuous to me, aside from the Anglicization of the Indian word being similar to the drink, and the Toddy House being a sort of a bar.

Palm Wine is usually not drunk hot nor is it diluted or sweetened as far as I know.

I have to admit that I've been enjoying REALLY simple drinks lately and the cold version of the Toddy (or Sling) is one that has been quite pleasing to me.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I have to admit that I've been enjoying REALLY simple drinks lately and the cold version of the Toddy (or Sling) is one that has been quite pleasing to me.

I hear that. A gnarly head cold had me on the hot kick though. I don't know that I'd have made it through without goodly doses of Lemon Hart or Laphroaig.

 

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Cool, thanks for the clarification.

No problem mate.

I have to admit that I've been enjoying REALLY simple drinks lately and the cold version of the Toddy (or Sling) is one that has been quite pleasing to me.

I hear that. A gnarly head cold had me on the hot kick though. I don't know that I'd have made it through without goodly doses of Lemon Hart or Laphroaig.

Thirded. Winter's kicking into action in Scotland so I've been sipping on (bittered) Toddys and (bittered) Hot Buttered Rums every other night to try and shake this cold I have at the moment, thankfully it seems to be working!

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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