Starve a fever, drink a toddy?
December 6th, 2010
11:30 AM ET
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Sam Meyer is an editor at CNN and blogs about cocktails at He's not a licensed medical professional, but he makes one heck of a soothing toddy. Recipe below.

So the weather has finally turned downright chilly in New York City, and I've come down with a head cold. Not a nasty one, fortunately; I'm not flat on my back, whining as I watch daytime television and count my muscle aches. The symptoms - runny nose, slight headache, sore and scratchy throat, general congestion - are more irritating than debilitating. But what to do about it?

Other than the standard approaches of rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medication, what's the food angle? Everyone seems to have their own approaches - my girlfriend firmly believes that you should stay away from dairy when you have a cold, on the theory that milk makes your nose run more - so what's yours?

Should you starve a fever and feed a cold? Or is it the other way around? WebMD, bless their hearts, says that "starving is never the correct answer" and recommends eating foods rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and phytochemicals.

Chicken soup, that old standby, works as medicine too and has has anti-inflammatory and congestion-relieving properties. Homemade chicken soup is of course the best, but if I don't want to mess with defrosting the stock and boiling noodles, there's always canned or store-bought. Last night, some Chinese-takeout hot and sour soup, with extra sriracha hot sauce added, helped blast away any rhinovirus that thought it could survive the peppery assault.

Soups and other hot liquids also soothe scratchy throats. I find, however, that a hot toddy is more pleasurable. It helps you sleep, the sore throat goes away, and the lemon even gives you some Vitamin C.

Basic Hot Toddy

Warm a mug or Irish coffee glass with boiling water, then toss the water out and place 3-4 whole cloves, a cinnamon stick, and a teaspoon of honey inside.

Add 4 to 5 ounces boiling water (strong tea is a nice variation), stir until the honey dissolves, and add 2 ounces bourbon, Scotch, rye, dark rum, or brandy. (I'm partial to bourbon toddies, though strongly-flavored honeys work well with Scotch.)

Stir briefly, then squeeze a lemon wedge into the drink and drop it in. Top with grated nutmeg or allspice if you really want to get fancy.

CNN Health has some more traditional (though we suspect less delightful) cures for the common cold

Got a no-fail food-related cold remedy? Share with the rest of the class in the comments below.

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Filed under: Cocktail Recipes • Health News • Sip • Spirits

soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. RichardHead@Snowbunny

    Good Morning-Wanna talk about it?

    December 15, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  2. Snowbunny

    Lots of napping and maybe some chicken broth or 7up.

    December 15, 2010 at 9:51 am |
  3. JDB

    Hot hot chai tea with a bit of honey and jack daniels....a splash of non fat or soy milk makes it nice and creamy. Takes the sting out of the cough and lets you rest.

    December 15, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  4. razzlea

    Toddy Woddy! check out my blog

    December 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  5. vel

    put cider in place of the water in the toddy. Very good. also, make broth, then hit it with sriracha and lime juice.

    December 6, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  6. RobbyT

    I've tried 8 of these hot toddies already today. My head is still clogged, but I don't really care anymore.....

    December 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  7. Curator 1974

    Grandma's recipe to a tea. She served this to me with brandy and tea starting at the age of five, and I have sworn by it ever since!

    December 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • JDB

      Your grandmother was dosing you up with brandy at age 5?? Who left you in her care? Seriously!

      December 15, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  8. Lifelong Vegetarian

    Straight up hot lemonade works wonders, too. I make mine with the concentrated lemon juice found in a bottle. Add as much as you can stand to hot water, sweeten as necessary, and drink while hot. Helps soothe an aching or sore throat, and does help cut down on coughing. Hot ginger tea probably would work, too. The trick is to drink it while hot so that the acid + heat can go to work on what ails. Plus, it's an excellent way to push fluids.

    December 6, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  9. phoenix

    blackberry brandy or hot and sour soup from a chinese take out

    December 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  10. Evil Grin

    Yours probably actually tastes good. I'm used to creating basically a steaming sludge of brandy or scotch, tea, lemon juice and honey. I actually sometimes add some vitamin c tablets to mine, but only when I'm really miserable. Sometimes I skip the "hot" part, and just stick with the brandy or scotch, but usually that's when I'm feeling better. ;)

    Either way, it does its job, usually.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  11. Sam Meyer

    I don't recommend the Two Hat Cure, but some swear by it.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Evil Grin

      Don't have a bedpost, but I think I'll give this a try anyway. If I DO see two hats sitting on a bedpost, I'll know it's worked!

      December 6, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  12. Truth

    Chicken soup with rice for the nourishment a pint bottle of light rum (Meyer's is my preferred brand) for some sleep. The two never seem to fail me.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:42 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Rum, lemon, TheraFlu – WIN

      December 6, 2010 at 11:43 am |
      • Truth@Kat

        The only hangup there – Does theraflu contain any acetaminophen? If so, you want to avoid the booze due to potential for liver damage. I am hoping to keep mine around for a while...;)

        December 6, 2010 at 11:45 am |
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