Monday, May 27, 2024

Rusty Nail Cocktail – A Beautiful Mess


If you enjoy Scotch, you need to try the Rusty Nail cocktail. This drink used to be at the top of every bar menu and has more recently become more of a hidden gem. This simple two ingredient cocktail is a mixture of Scotch and Scotch-based herbal liqueur Drambuie.

More classic cocktail recipes: Old FashionedManhattan, Negroni, Sidecar, Gimlet, Cosmo, Tom Collins.

What is a Rusty Nail?

The Rusty Nail is a classic cocktail known for its simplicity and flavor profile.  It is made with two key ingredients: Scotch whisky and Drambuie, a honey-sweetened herbal liqueur. The cocktail is traditionally served in a lowball glass, often garnished with a twist of lemon peel. The result is a smooth and slightly sweet beverage with the smokiness of Scotch whisky complemented by the herbal and honeyed notes from the Drambuie. The Rusty Nail is appreciated for its simplicity and the balanced interplay of the two distinctive spirits, making it a timeless and enjoyable drink.

Ingredients in a Rusty Nail

  • Scotch – Choose a blended Scotch whiskey.
  • Drambuie – A unique blend of aged Scotch whisky, heather honey and herbs & spices.
  • Angostura Bitters – This is an optional ingredient—add a dash if you have them on hand.

The best glass to serve a Rusty Nail in is a rocks glass. You will also want to prepare some giant ice cubes.

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What is Drambuie?

Drambuie is a sweet and herbal liqueur made from Scotch whisky. It is known for its balanced flavor. To make it, Scotch whisky is blended with honey that comes from the pollen of a heather plant. The history of Drambuie dates back to 18th century Scotland, where it was created and the recipe was shared between Scottish clans.

Drambuie tastes like sweet caramel, licorice, honey and warming spices like cinnamon, clove, and star anise. These flavors mingle with smokey Scotch flavors for a truly unique flavor profile. These flavors make it the perfect liqueur for cold weather months.

Directions

  • Step 1: Fill a rocks glass with ice (I used one large ice cube). Add Scotch, Drambuie, and bitters (optional). You won’t need a mixing glass, as you can make this drink right in the glass you serve it in.
  • Step 2: Stir thoroughly and serve with a lemon peel garnish.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Rusty Spike – Replace the blended Scotch with bourbon and you have a Rusty Spike.
  • Bitters – Many recipes recommend adding a dash of Angostura bitters to your drink.
  • Seasonal Garnishes – In winter months, I like to add a sprig of rosemary to drinks and in the summer you could add an orange slice or even a cherry if you wish. The traditional way to serve is with a lemon peel.

History

Many people believe the Rusty Nail was invented in 1937 for the British Industries Fair trade show. By the end of the 1960s, bars in New Orleans were serving this famous cocktail. This recipe’s origin is also sometimes credited to the 21 Club in Manhattan in the 1960s.

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This drink gained popularity in the mid-20th century and became associated with the Rat Pack era. It’s said that members of the Rat Pack made this their go-to order for a time. The cocktail is believed to have emerged in the 1960s, and its simplicity and bold flavors contributed to its enduring appeal in addition to a cool name that is fun to order.

Over the years, the Rusty Nail has maintained its status as a classic cocktail, appreciated for its straightforward preparation and the delightful combination of the smoky, peaty notes of Scotch whisky with the herbal sweetness of Drambuie.

Tips for Making

  • Blended Scotch – Using a single malt Scotch certainly won’t ruin this recipe, but a blended Scotch gets the job done and is the recommended option.
  • Play with the ratio – Try equal parts one ounce Drambuie and one ounce Scotch for a slightly sweeter drink. The original recipe calls for a one-to-one ratio, while more modern versions are a bit dryer.
  • Use an oversized iced cube – Giant ice cubes melt slower and are perfect for this recipe. 
  • Garnish thoughtfully – Use a lemon peel and squeeze the lemon peel gently over the drink to express subtle lemon oils.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Rusty Nail have in it?

A Rusty Nail cocktail is made from Scotch and Drambuie.

How do you garnish a Rusty Nail?

A Rusty Nail cocktail is often garnished with a lemon peel.

Who made Rusty Nail cocktails popular?

The Rat Pack during the 1960s. This drink became their signature cocktail for a while.


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Get the Recipe

Learn to make a Rusty Nail cocktail at home.

Yield 1 cocktail

Prep 3 minutes

Instructions

  • Fill a rocks glass with ice (I used one large ice cube). Add Scotch, Drambuie, and bitters (optional).

  • Stir thoroughly and serve with a lemon peel garnish.

Notes

  • Blended Scotch – Using a single malt Scotch certainly won’t ruin this recipe, but a blended Scotch gets the job done and is the recommended option.
  • Play with the ratio – Try equal parts one ounce Drambuie and one ounce Scotch for a slightly sweeter drink. The original recipe calls for a one-to-one ratio, while more modern versions are a bit dryer.
  • Use an oversized iced cube – Giant ice cubes melt slower and are perfect for this recipe. 
  • Garnish thoughtfully – Use a lemon peel and squeeze the lemon peel gently over the drink to express subtle lemon oils.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Rusty Nail Cocktail

Amount per Serving

% Daily Value*

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.



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