Rusty Nail - Cold evenings call for a rich and comforting cocktail

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Rusty Nail - Cold evenings call for a rich and comforting cocktail

The Rusty Nail is a cocktail you've probably heard of (who could forget a name like that?), but may not have tried it.

Let's fix this! With a smoky base and honeyed-sweet liqueur, this 2-ingredient cocktail makes a delicious pre-dinner drink.

Growing up, I saw the Rusty Nail as a fixture at the poker table where my uncles, grandparents, and their friends would gather.

Enjoyed on the rocks, this alcoholic cocktail was served strong and only at night. I'd say it's still a great chill-out drink.

With its smoky whiskey base, lightly sweetened with Drambuie, a whiskey-based liqueur with a strong flavor of honey and spices that also boasts an ABV of 40% (the same percentage as most liqueurs).

Rusty Nail is best enjoyed over ice, in sips slowly to contain his stroke of alcohol.

Rusty Nail History

This simple combination of whiskey and Drambuie has been a popular drink since the 1930s.

Albeit in slightly different proportions and with a few additional ingredients that came and went depending on who was making the drink.

The modern 2-ingredient version of the recipe became firmly established in the 1960s and became a bar mainstay in the 1970s.

It rose to prominence throughout the '80s and '90s and became something of an heirloom. But don't let that stop you from making this classic drink.

The main ingredients

Drambuie's rich honey flavor is also lightly spiced with herbs such as aniseed, cloves and saffron. Pairing it with a bold, smoky whiskey balances out its sweet flavor.

While a blended whiskey is always better for blending, not all work the same here.

A whiskey that is too smooth will not provide the necessary contrast; I'd go for a smokier whiskey for a richer experience.

Try The Famous Grouse Smoky Black for a great balance of smoke with a smooth aftertaste.

Update your rusty nail cocktail

If you want to round out the drink even more and add another layer of spiciness here, 2 drops of Angostura bitters will subtly balance the drink.

Is this necessary? No, but just as salt enhances and balances food, aromatic bitters can really enhance the flavor of a drink without drawing attention to itself.

You can also squeeze (or "express" in bar terms) a 1/2-inch-wide piece of lemon peel over the drink to give the drink a hint of floral aroma and brighten it up.


2 ounces of blended whiskey
1/2 ounce of Drambuie
1 to 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, optional
Lemon zest for garnish, optional


Add the ingredients and stir:

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, pour the whiskey and Drambuie.

Add bitters (if you use them). Stir to cool and dilute the drink for about 20 seconds.

Strain, decorate and serve:

Strain into a highball glass with 1 large or 2-3 small ice cubes.

Lightly squeeze a lemon rind, with the outside of the rind toward the glass, then add it to the glass as a garnish or discard. To serve.

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