The Rusty Nail is the ultimate Scotch Cocktail. The high-proof drink is made of two ingredients, Scotch and a Scotch liqueur called Drambuie. Sounds too one-dimensional? Well, it doesn't have to be.
Quick Facts Rusty Nail Cocktail
- Method: stirred
- Flavor profile: smoky, boozy, dry with only a subtle sweetness
- How to serve it: over ice
- Glassware: Old Fashioned Glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 32% ABV, 19 grams of alcohol per serving
The drink is simple yet elegant, and we show you how you get it right.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Mixing glass
- 1 Bar spoon
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 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 for 25 to 30 seconds until the drink is well-chilled
- Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over a large ice cube or sphere.
- garnish with a lemon peel - squeeze it gently before discarding it into the glass.
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.
Whisky: The Scotch should be of good quality as it will ultimately define if the cocktail is a hit or miss. You can experiment with different types and levels of peatiness. The crucial part here is that it suits your palate. If you're unsure, read our guides about the different Scotch types and regions - including recommendations.
Drambuie: Drambuie is surely the most distinguished Scotch liqueur and an absolute must for this cocktail. The name is the Gaelic term for a drink that knows how to satisfy your tastebuds. 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.
Pro tips to make the drink
Apart from the right choice of Scotch, the preparation method play a vital role in getting the Rusty Nail right. As you may know, the rule says that drinks containing only alcoholic components are stirred, not shaken, and this is no exception.
Scotch and Drambuie both are high proof with an ABV of 40% - or potentially slightly above in the case of the whisky. Thus, you need dilution from the ice.
For this, fill your mixing glass to the rim with ice cubes. Stir with a bar spoon for at least 20 seconds or 50 rounds. A little more might be even better in that case. -We usually stir our Rusty Nail for 25 to 30 seconds.
Now, you should have the perfect level of dilution (ca. 10ml or 0.35 oz of ice-cold water). Serve it with a large, clear ice cube that keeps the drink cool but melts slowly.
Garnish your Scotch Cocktail with a lemon peel. - For the final touch, hold it over the drink and squeeze it together to release some of the essential oils before discarding it into the glass.
History of the Rusty Nail Recipe
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, , 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.
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 cocktail remained a favorite in bars for ages. Yet, eventually, 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.
If you want to try more cocktails made with Scotch, how about some of these classics: