By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

The Penicillin is a crazy good Whisky cocktail. A traditional Scotch cocktail mixed with honey, ginger, and fresh lemon juice.
Penicillin cocktail with garnish

The Penicillin cocktail is one of the few popular Scotch cocktails on bar menus, really. The Rusty Nail and the Blood & Sand are two that come to mind, as well. 

Other than that, there is only a small number of Scotch drinks and some riffs on other classics - if you want some inspiration, here's a list of the best Scotch drinks.

The reason for the limited number is as simple as it is obvious. Scotch is a terrific 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 back to the Penicillin cocktail. It is 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 are brought together by lemon juice.

What 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 first is a blended Scotch 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.

Penicillin cocktail

If you're looking for a 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 nailing this drink. If you get this one right, it lifts the cocktail to another level. A smoky Islay will fit nicely. 

Now, 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.

Making Honey-Ginger Syrup

It is easy to make your very own honey-ginger syrup. Even if you're new to making your own honey syrup and syrup in general. 

All you need is a little 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
honey ginger syrup

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.

History of the Penicillin cocktail

Even though the ingredients of the Penicillin sound like it would be 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 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, the recipe for which I have described above.

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: 19.98g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.05g | Sodium: 0.25mg | Potassium: 26.5mg | Sugar: 18.85g | Vitamin C: 10.25mg | Calcium: 1.5mg | Iron: 0.03mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Subscribe to Cocktail Society!

Receive our latest recipes, reviews, and insights - straight to your inbox.
Subscription Form

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

ContactAbout usPrivacy PolicyTermsSitemap
Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from

© 2023