Rusty Nail Cocktail

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

Based on Scotch Whisky, the Rusty Nail has once been one of the most popular cocktails in the United States. Today, it's a cocktail you will rarely find on bar menus.
Rusty Nail cocktail

The Rusty Nail is a cocktail based on Scotch Whisky mixed with a liqueur also based on Scotch. Sounds too one-dimensional? Well, it doesn't have to be.

The drink is simple yet elegant. A cocktail that was a favorite in bars for ages. Yet, time took its toll, and the once oh-so-famous concoction was forgotten - until the recent return of vintage craft cocktails and the increasing interest in mixology.

Jump to Recipe | Ingredients | How to make it | History

Ingredients of the Rusty Nail

With this straightforward two-ingredient cocktail, there is nowhere to hide. The key to making it is fine Scotch Whisky and Drambuie. That is a liqueur named after the Gaelic term for a drink that knows how to satisfy your tastebuds.

  • Whisky: The Scotch should be of high quality as it will ultimately define if the cocktail is a hit or miss. You can experiment with different types and levels of peatiness. If you're unsure, read our guide about the different types of Scotch - it also includes recommendations.
  • Drambuie: Drambuie is certainly the most distinguished Scotch liqueur and an absolute must for this cocktail. It offers the perfect level of sweetness and a very complex flavor profile. It's super smooth with hints of slightly spiced honey, anise, orange, and oak.

How to make it

As you may know, the rule says that drinks containing only alcoholic components are stirred, not shaken. The Rusty Nail is no exception. So all you need is a mixing glass, a bar spoon, ice, and a rocks glass:

  • Step 1: Add both ingredients into the mixing glass with a handful of ice. 
  • Step 2: Stir for 20 seconds (about 50 times) until the drink is well-chilled
  • Step 3: Strain it into an Old Fashioned glass over ice - ideally one large clear cube or a sphere- and garnish with a lemon peel.
Rusty Nail drink with peel garnish, on table

History of the drink

In the 60s, "Have you tried a Rusty Nail?" was a frequent question in many bars. Of course, it made customers curious. What is it? How does it taste? Et voila, that was another Rusty Nail ordered.

The drink seemingly came out of nowhere and went the same way. Cocktail historians like David Wondrich think the earliest forerunner went under the name B.I.F., a reference to the British Industry Fair, [1] and was created by one Mr. F. Benniman in 1937.

Later on, the same recipe went under the names "D&S" and "Little club #1" and some others. Then suddenly, in the 1960s, Rusty Nail came up and stuck. Who had the idea is unfortunately unknown.

Rusty Nail cocktail

Rusty Nail

A classic two-ingredient cocktail based on Scotch Whiskey.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: drambuie, scotch, whiskey
Servings: 1
Calories: 164kcal
Cost: $2.90



  • 1.5 oz Scotch whiskey
  • 0.5 oz Drambuie liqueur


  • Add both ingredients to a mixing glass with lots of ice.
    1.5 oz Scotch whiskey, 0.5 oz Drambuie liqueur
  • Stir until the drink is well-chilled, and then strain into an Old Fashioned glass over a large ice cube or sphere.


Serving: 2.25oz | Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 5.55g | Potassium: 0.5mg | Sugar: 5.55g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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