Skip to Content

Grandma’s Homemade Cough Syrup


A jar of honey, bottle of southern comfort, sliced lemon, and peppermint stick.

We are talking about liquor. Medicinal liquor. The stuff that generations of sick folks depended upon before the invention of dextromethorphan.

I decided, after waking up yet again with a fully congested head and ears along with an inflamed painful throat, that I’m not taking any more drugs for this stuff.

I’ve been on an anti-biotic for 7 weeks along with various cough suppressants, expectorants, and heavy doses of ibuprofen for rib pain. Obviously, nothing is working or else my body has built up resistance to them.

And the “nighttime” prescription narcotics keep me wide awake with itching skin and weird states of in-between sleep.

It’s time to handle this the all natural way. What did our ancestors do when a head cold/flu/sinus crap got ahold of them? They used what the Good Lord gave them. Honey, lemon, peppermint (for flavor) and whiskey.


Mason jar with homemade whiskey cough syrup on a white plate

I vividly remember a jar that sat on top of my grandmother’s refrigerator before it was either used up or it disappeared.

I remember seeing various members of my family take a spoon and dip out of it. . . some only once. Some certain family members needed a little more healing than one spoon could give.

But I remember the big peppermint stick and that is what I found myself holding in the checkout line at the grocery store. You can usually find these around the holidays. 


What do you need to make this?

Grandma’s cough medicine is 4 ingredients: peppermint, honey, lemon, and liquor/whiskey. I don’t think it really matters which liquor you use. My family always used a dark whiskey/ bourbon. The point is NOT to get so drunk you can’t stand. Why these 4 things?

  • Honey coats the throat, is anti-bacterial and builds the immune system. It can also be used for burns and keeps infection away.  Honey also draws pus out of wounds and sores.
  • Whiskey works as an anesthetic to the cough response so you can sleep. If you can’t sleep, your body can’t rejuvenate. Whiskey is also higher in antioxidants than red wine so it fights free radicals too.
  • Lemon provides Vitamin C and helps the liver cleanse the body. Lemon is one of the best foods for the liver because it cuts through mucous which often accompanies colds. It is also alkaline once it’s ingested which is especially good while fighting flu and coughs.
  • Peppermint flavors the syrup and stops coughing. Spices such as cayenne pepper, ginger and cinnamon can be added for flavor and extra healing. Just make sure they are thoroughly mixed.

mason jar with whiskey cough syrup

What is a “Big Peppermint Stick”?

The big peppermint sticks may not be as easy to find as years ago. I find them every year at walmart or the grocery store.

If you can’t find one around the holidays in the gift basket or specialty candy sections of the grocery store, just use regular peppermint sticks or the candies. The sugar and peppermint is for flavor only. 

When I saw the peppermint stick as soon as I walked in the store and had the revelation to ditch the meds, I also decided to fill my basket with flu-fighting foods. 

I loaded up with a whole chicken for soup with bone broth. Salmon for Omegas, spinach for fighting free radicals, asparagus to clean out the bladder/kidneys, and nuts for clean protein.

If I’m going all natural with the cough/congestion medicine, I’m sticking to real foods, too.






The Verdict: I slept great last night. I have a lot of congestion but I got some good sleep.

Bottle of Southern Comfort, a jar of honey, a halved lemon, and a peppermint stick.

Grandma's Homemade Cough Syrup

Yield: 20 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Using whiskey, honey, lemon, and peppermint, this homemade cough syrup is just what you need for sleepless coughing nights.


  • 1 peppermint stick, large
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup bourbon or whiskey
  • 1.5 cups raw honey


  1. Melt 1/4 a peppermint stick in 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon).
  2. Add a half of cup of Southern Comfort and 1.5 cups of raw honey to pot and reduce heat.
  3. Stir to combine. Put 1/4 of a peppermint stick in jar.
  4. Using a funnel, pour the mixture over 1/4 of peppermint stick (total of 1/2 of peppermint stick used.)
  5. Let it cool. Store in cool dry place.


Dosing: 1-2 Tablespoons every 3-4 hours as needed. No need to swig the jar.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 62Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 0gSugar: 14gProtein: 0g


Saturday 29th of October 2022

Why cook any of it? Just add to a mason jar and put the lid on. It will melt the peppermint a little at a time. I've never cooked it.

Joyce Belk

Monday 10th of October 2022

Honestly I hate I read the comments because everybody has different idea as to how it should be done. I have zero experience in using alcohol to assist with cough, etc. so naturally I want to get it right. Boil…don’t boil…..add at the end…mix it all together. Dang guys I’m more confused that every. Maybe I’ll just sit the whiskey by my bed and every time I cough I take a big drink. Lol


Thursday 3rd of February 2022

How long can this be kept for?


Monday 9th of May 2022

@Joe, The shelf life for honey is forever. The shelf life for whiskey (alcohol) is a few years as far as I know. I think the lemon juice would be the problem. I take lemon zest (or lemon peels) and put them in a jar of whiskey, to infuse for a week or 2 and then take them out & add honey to the whiskey. It should last a long time on the least a year. Of course, I'm not a doctor, just a grandma who has done this for a long time. If you are only using whiskey, honey and lemon peels you should be fine. Water contaminates over time, short shelf life and I am not sure about the candy.


Friday 19th of November 2021

I searched for a recipe because I've been having the itchy throat/ear thing lately, especially when I've eaten more cheese than usual. Holidays are full of cheesy foods. I usually can't find the soft peppermint puffs any more, but saw a big tub of them at Aldi. My grandmother always had a tin of these soft peppermints (the Lion was on the tin - don't know the brand) and made this cough syrup with them every winter. It was amazing. I can't wait to pick up some whisky today and make this syrup! Most winters I buy a whisky that already has lemon and honey in it, but I really want the full effect of the peppermint. Thanks for the recipe!

Natalie Ransford

Sunday 26th of December 2021

@Merritt, KING LEO peppermint sticks

Tanda Brock

Friday 7th of May 2021

Can I use brand

Cynthia M

Friday 10th of September 2021

What if I don't have rock candy , can I just use peppermint candy but not the stick instead


Monday 24th of May 2021

@Tanda Brock, my family always used 100 proof apple jack brandy, honey, lemon juice and peppermint. Worked great for my bronchitis! My husband and I make it for ourselves now.

Tanda Brock

Friday 7th of May 2021

@Tanda Brock, can I use brandy

Skip to Recipe