The Loft at Duchess Updates the Hot Toddy

The Hot Symphony is a new take on an old favorite.


Photo by Lori Eanes

With the winter weather coming in, this is also the most excellent time for a warming, aromatic cocktail, ideally one prepared as a twist on the classic hot toddy. A drinkable masterpiece is now available at The Loft at Duchess on College Avenue and it is as comforting as taking a seat by the fire with a dog curled in your lap. This original creation called The Hot Symphony comes from bar manager Luis Ramos who draws inspiration from his time as a bar back at Absinthe.

“I kinda fell in love with how we made the hot toddy: the smell, the aromatics, the look,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do an O.G. badass hot toddy and this is my homage to that.”

Ramos adds the ingredients to a siphon, which would typically be used to make tea or coffee. Then he lets the spices and liquor percolate for six to eight minutes over a flame. Watching the bottom pot of the siphon slowly fill and the top slowly drain is a beautiful sight with a flavorful result. Once the pot is full, Ramos pours the cocktail into a wine glass garnished with lemon and mint, and somehow the drink is immediately at the perfect temperature, ready to be savored.

“With a hot toddy, the spices just get thrown in there,” Ramos said. “You just have a hot, watered-down drink. Which isn’t bad; I mean, it’s gorgeous. We all want a hot toddy, especially in December or when we’re sick. There’s nothing better on a cold night than whiskey, honey, and lemon.”


The Loft at Duchess, 5422 College Ave., Oakland, 510-871-3463,



The Hot Symphony

¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

.5 ounce sweet potato syrup

1 ounce rye

1 ounce cognac or 1 ounce applejack

2 grams of black pepper, whole

2 stars of star anise

2 cinnamon sticks, whole

2 bay leaves

1 gram of cloves

3 to 4 dashes of hot pepper tincture

4 ounces warm water

Lemon peel and mint spring, for garnish


Add all ingredients to a glass siphon, light it, and let sit for six to eight minutes, until the liquid fills the pot. Pour into a wine glass and garnish with lemon peel and mint sprig.

To make the sweet potato syrup: Add a 1.5:1 ratio of sugar to water to make a simple syrup. Add a pound of sliced sweet potatoes.

To make the hot pepper tincture: Add a blend of habanero peppers, serrano peppers, black pepper, and pink pepper to a glass bottle with Everclear. Let it sit for two weeks, then strain.