This cold and flu elixir is our go-to remedy to soothe a sore throat, stop sniffles, or settle an upset stomach. But it’s remarkable not just for its honeyed-ginger flavor that’s lovely as can be (and no contest compared with those blechy-tasting store-bought cold medicines). You’re also going to be enamored by the fact that you probably already have everything you need to make it, which means no run to the store and no paying for an over-priced brand-name concoction of scary-sounding multi-syllabic ingredients.Angie Zoobkoff

Glass jar with a cold and flu drink with a cinnamon stick, a spoon with ginger

Cold Elixir

5 / 9 votes
Cold and flu elixir combines honey, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and cayenne for a homemade alternative to terrible-tasting, over-priced, brand-name cold medicines. So lovely you may find yourself feigning illness.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories68 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes


  • 3 cups boiling water
  • One piece fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey, preferably raw
  • Two (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, each broken in half
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of kosher salt


  • In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, place the ginger, vinegar, honey, cinnamon sticks, cayenne, and salt in an uncracked jar or bowl.
  • Pour in the boiling water and stir until the honey dissolves. Strain and drink immediately.


Elixirs for Health Variation

The above recipe is fantastic for treating common cough and cold symptoms. If you’d like to tailor the elixir to help with other symptoms, try one of the variations below…
To settle an upset stomach, double the ginger and leave out the vinegar and cayenne.
For a vitamin C boost, add the grated zest and juice of a lemon and/or an orange to the elixir.
To help you sleep, add a chamomile tea bag or a little dried lavender to the elixir and omit the cayenne.
Small Victories Cookbook

Adapted From

Small Victories

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Serving: 1 mugfulCalories: 68 kcalCarbohydrates: 18 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 11 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 17 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2016 Julia Turshen. Photo © 2016 Gentl + Hyers. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

The moment we read this recipe, we gathered the ingredients to make it, starting by smashing the ginger in the bottom of a bowl, and adding the other ingredients in the time that it took to boil the water. In less than 5 minutes, we were sipping the hot and wonderfully soothing elixir with the hope for a solid wellness boost.

We were wary about the 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, so we started with 1/4 teaspoon, which suited us well. We served 6 servings of a half cup each, and we will certainly make this again—both as-is as well as the variations. We’ve renamed the recipe for ourselves from “Cold Elixir” to “Wellness Elixir.”

Turns out I’m the perfect guinea pig for this cold and flu elixir since I’ve had to accept that I’ve not been winning against my cold for a couple of weeks and counting. This must be just the concoction I needed: it tasted great to me. While I started with a serving that approximated 1/4 of the recipe, I actually drank it all, sip by sip.

Not only did I use raw—and local—honey, but my apple cider vinegar was also raw. I followed the directions to boil water (pot), combine the ingredients (bowl), and strain (strainer). However, this could be as simple as boil water, add ingredients to the pot, and then remove the cinnamon stick and ginger. Less dishes = more inclination to make this elixir, especially when not feeling well!

Note that the cayenne wanted to fall to the bottom, so when I noticed this, I added a spoon to the cup, and stirred before each sip. It was pretty sweet to me, so my inclination would be to try the variation with lemon in the future, as a balancing flavor to the honey, and in addition to the plus of extra vitamin C.

This was certainly timely–I’ve been down with one cold after another for the last month or so, so anything promising some relief in a natural, healthy way is intriguing. While, obviously, this won’t cure any legitimate illness, it is tasty and soothing and probably worth having in a large batch, just as the author suggests.

A wicked brew indeed, this strongly flavored, spicy-sour-magically addictive tea simply must be good for you. And the directions: add each aromatic ingredient to a jar and top with water…easy.

Since I was chopping ginger anyway for dinner, I pulsed up the 3-inch chunk in the processor and tossed everything else in. Distracted, I let the mixture steep for about 15 minutes before I strained off the solids and tasted. At first sip I almost dumped the whole concoction down the drain. I added about as much water to my cup as the elixir. Then I had another sip, and another. I can’t put my finger on what I like about this, but I’ve felt drawn to making a warm mug each afternoon since. I can’t say that I drink it as the author does, straight; I’ve kept my strained jar in the fridge for about a week and use it as a base. Much like kombucha or herbal tea, I often pour one strong cup (50%/50% elixir/water, sometimes with a twist of lemon), then top it up all afternoon with just-boiled water, until the cup’s flavor fades with the light as twilight sets in. Will it hasten a cold’s symptoms? I don’t know, but it does make pleasant company during flu season, and I’ll be making this again soon.

I think this might be nice as a vinaigrette base, or added in teaspoons/tablespoons to water in the hotter months. Apple cider might be a nice sub for the cider vinegar for those not fond of the vinegary nose.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I didn’t expect to like the flavor of this cold and flu elixir with the large amount of honey in it. But I tried the variation for an upset stomach because my stomach was upset. I’ve never used elixirs for upset stomachs before and I loved the flavor. I’d expected it to taste terrible like medicine does. But I would drink it even if I felt well. I drank 1/2 cup and my stomach started to feel better. So, I drank another 1/2 cup and my stomach felt fine! Very pleasantly surprised that something I would drink any time would help me feel better.

    1. Kathy, we’re so grateful to hear that this elixir worked well for you! We, too, were curious when we first tried it if it would actually work. But so many of us on staff and our testers have had success with it, we couldn’t not share it! We so appreciate you taking the time to let us know.

  2. Can this still be useful if i made it and mailed to a sick friend? He would never make it himself and he’s super sick!