Penicillin cocktail with garnish


By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 14, 2022 
The Penicillin is a crazy good Whisky cocktail. A Scotch cocktail mixed with honey, ginger, and fresh lemon juice.

There aren't many popular Scotch cocktails on bar menus, really. The Rusty Nail is one of the few that come to mind instantly. But other than that, there's hardly a good cocktail recipe using Scotch as a base. The reason is as simple as it is obvious. Scotch is a fantastic spirit to drink neat, but when using it in a cocktail, the smokiness of the Whisky can turn out to be quite a challenge.

But luckily, there's Penicillin. A modern classic and one bold drink. It brings together the smoky notes of Scotch, spice from the ginger, sweetness from honey, and all those get balanced by lemon juice.

History of the Penicillin cocktail

Even though the ingredients of the Penicillin sound like it's way older, the drink is actually pretty young. Sam Ross invented it in the 2000s while working at New York's popular drinking den Milk & Honey. That is also the place that became famous for inventing the Gold Rush cocktail -a drink made of Bourbon, lemon juice, and honey. So it is pretty safe to say Ross got inspired by that recipe.

He replaced Bourbon with Scotch and spiced up the recipe with ginger. To optimize that, he created a beautifully balanced honey-ginger syrup. And because it is impossible to make a Penicillin Cocktail without this fun and spicy syrup, I will quickly explain how to make it at home.

Making Honey-Ginger Syrup

Don't worry. It is easy to make your very own honey-ginger syrup. Even if you're new to making your own honey syrup or syrup in general. All you need is a bit of time, as you may want to let the ginger steep overnight. But let's talk about ingredients first.


  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 6-inch piece of ginger peeled & thinly sliced

How to make it:

  • Add all ingredients into a small saucepan over high heat.
  • Bring the mix to a boil and reduce heat immediately and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.
  • Let the syrup cool down. Once it reaches room temperature, store it in the fridge and let the ginger steep overnight.
  • Fine-strain the syrup and bottle it. You can keep it for up to 4 weeks.

What kind of Scotch for a Penicillin Cocktail?

Similar to the principle of some Tiki Cocktails, the Penicillin drink is actually using two different types of Scotch. The blended Scotch is mixed with the other ingredients and strained into a cocktail glass. A float of Islay Scotch completes the drink.

I promise you, the cocktail tastes incredible! The peaty, earthy flavors of the Scotch marry amazingly well with the honey-ginger syrup.

If you're looking for a product recommendation, I got you covered. For the blended Scotch, I like Dewar's 12-year-old blended Scotch Whisky. If this is over budget, go for Famous Grouse. That is an established and reasonably priced alternative.

The float of finest peated Scotch is the key to nail this drink. If you get this one right, it lifts the cocktail to another level. A smoky Islay will fit nicely. And if you want something really exclusive, a float of Lagavulin 16 years makes this drink extra delicious. I know it's not for the faint-hearted, but it packs some nice smoky notes. Another, more affordable recommendation would be Laphroaig 10 years.

Penicillin cocktail with garnish


A delicious Scotch cocktail made with honey-ginger syrup.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ginger, honey, scotch, whiskey
Servings: 1
Calories: 236kcal
Cost: $3.40


  • 2 oz Blended Scotch (Dewar's 12 years or Famous Grouse)
  • 0.75 oz Lemon juice
  • 0.75 oz Honey-ginger syrup
  • 0.25 oz Islay Scotch (Lagavulin 16 years or Laphroaig 10 years)
  • Candied ginger for garnish


  • Add blended Scotch, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and the honey syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice.
    2 oz Blended Scotch, 0.75 oz Lemon juice, 0.75 oz Honey-ginger syrup
  • Shake until well-chilled and strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass.
  • Float with Islay Scotch and optionally garnish the drink with candied ginger.
    0.25 oz Islay Scotch, Candied ginger for garnish


Serving: 4oz | Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 57.98g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 0.15g | Sodium: 0.75mg | Potassium: 79.5mg | Sugar: 53.85g | Vitamin C: 29.25mg | Calcium: 4.5mg | Iron: 0.08mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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