How to Make an Apple Maple Hot Toddy
When I lived in Los Angeles, it was easy to lose track of the seasons. Months would go by, various holidays would come and go, but the weather would remain eerily the same: 72 degrees and sunny from here to eternity. There was no end in sight, the weather was unrelentingly pleasant.
While many people considered this indefinite summer to be paradise, I found it to be extremely disorienting. Time appeared to be standing still but was, in fact, flying by. Even the trees were in a state of bewilderment, as one side of the block would be budding and on the other, the leaves would be turning brown. All during the month of January! Madness!
It wasn’t always like this; I grew up in New England. I remember looking forward to the upcoming season, if only for a change of scenery. Don’t care for winter? Stick around, spring is just around the corner. Burnt out on summer? Maybe some fall colors will pick you up. The progression of a year was not just a numerical abstraction, but something that could be physically felt. You only needed to step outside to know exactly where you were.
So after living in seasonal stagnation for a while, I decided something needed to be done. But if I wanted to bring seasons to Los Angeles, then—like everything in the city—it would need to be artificially induced. My solution: to drink my way through the year (figuratively speaking, of course).
It started off with scotch and whiskey in winter, gin in spring, rum in summer, and, well, back to whiskey for autumn. No harm in repeating that one. This rotation of spirits created the illusion of seasonality and quickly evolved into more and more distinctly themed drinks. I would find myself looking forward to the first Gin & Tonic of spring, the first Dark & Stormy of summer, and the first Hot Toddy of fall. They weren’t seasons in the traditional sense, but they were delicious stand-ins.
Recently, I’ve broken free from the endless summer of Los Angeles and set out on a yearlong road trip across North America. Only a few months in and I’ve already rediscovered fall. It’s in Washington state. But instead of abandoning my alcohol-based calendar system, I figured I would just adapt the drinks to our new car camping style of life.
Washington is apple country and the harvest was coming in just as we were passing through. What better way to kick off autumn than with a fresh apple Hot Toddy? So we stopped off at one of the overflowing produce stands along the side of the road and picked up a bag. We were also rapidly approaching the Canadian border, so we figured in lieu of the traditional honey we could add in a little maple syrup to the mix. The end result couldn’t have tasted more seasonally appropriate. A perfect cup of fall.
Michael van Vliet is one half of the team at Fresh Off the Grid, a camp cooking blog.
They feature recipes specifically designed for cooking in the outdoors, written on the road as he and his girlfriend travel the United States.
Find them online or on Instagram.
Images ©: Megan McDuffie