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The Rusty Nail is a Scotch and Drambuie cocktail that’s got the 1960’s written all over it! We put a little shine on this classic slow sipper.

Rusty Nail

Scotch lovers, this one’s for you! Here’s one of the most famous Scotch cocktails of them all: the Rusty Nail. This slow sipper got popular in the 1960’s, pairing whisky with Drambuie, a Scotch-based liqueur. All you need is two ingredients and you get lots of flavor: honey, herb and sweet notes from the Drambuie, and a spicy finish from the Scotch. If you like spirit-forward drinks like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan, this one will be right up your alley.

What’s in a Rusty Nail?

The Rusty Nail was born back in the 1937 at a British Industries Fair and was dubbed the BIF. Then it disappeared into history, only to reappear in the 1960’s as the “in” drink of the moment. Just as mysterious is the drink’s name: no one seems to know where Rusty Nail came from. Some think it was named after the rusty nails on the crates of Drambuie, others say a bartender actually stirred the drink with a rusty nail. (Highly unlikely!)

Whatever the case, this drink is actually a classic cocktail on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning there’s an “official” definition. The ingredients in a Rusty Nail are:

  • Scotch whiskey
  • Drambuie
Rusty Nail

How to make the best Rusty Nail

Some people say that you can make a Rusty Nail with equal parts Scotch and Drambuie. Wrong! This makes for a sickly sweet drink that’s a little too overpowering. (A classic 1970’s cocktail move.) Here’s what we recommend for making the very best Rusty Nail:

  • Use 4 parts Scotch to 1 part Drambuie. This lets the Scotch shine through, and it’s just sweet enough.
  • Make it with a large ice cube of clear ice. The other way to make a super stunning Rusty Nail at home: make clear ice! Clear ice is artisan ice that’s crystal clear instead of cloudy like normal ice. You can easily make it at home using a small cooler: all you need is 24 hours. Then cut it into a large cube! Go to How to Make Clear Ice.
Drambuie

What is Drambuie, anyway?

That’s what I asked Alex when he told me we were making a Rusty Nail. The bottle says “The Isle of Skye Liqueur,” which certainly sounds intriguing. What is it, and is it worth springing for a bottle? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Drambuie is a liqueur made from Scotch. It’s sweet with flavors of honey, spices and herbs.
  • What’s the history? Apparently the recipe goes back to 1745 and Prince Charles Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). Legend has it that he shared his secret formula while fleeing the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It first started commercial production in the early 1900’s.
  • How much does Drambuie cost? The average cost of a bottle of Drambuie in the United States is around $40.
  • Is it worth buying? Only for the adventurous drinker! The Rusty Nail is the only common drink that uses Drambuie…though you can drink it straight on the rocks, or mix it with champagne for a tasty sparkling drink.

More Scotch cocktails

Don’t want to buy a bottle of Drambuie? We don’t blame you! Here are a few other Scotch cocktails you can make instead:

  • Godfather The Godfather pairs Scotch with amaretto: a great intro-to-Scotch drink!
  • Penicillin A modern classic! Featuring Scotch with the flavors of honey, lemon and ginger, it’s got a unique, high-end vibe.
  • Scotch Sour A whiskey sour with blended Scotch, it tastes sweet tart and peaty on the finish.
  • Blood and Sand A unique classic cocktail made with Scotch! Full of complex flavor, it features blood orange juice and cherry liqueur.
  • Rob Roy A Manhattan made with Scotch! This booze-forward cocktail is a sophisticated way to enjoy a good Scotch.
How to make a Rusty Nail

When to serve a Rusty Nail cocktail

The Rusty Nail is a slow-sipping Scotch cocktail. It’s great for serving as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Rusty Nail

Rusty Nail (New & Improved!)


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

The Rusty Nail is a Scotch and Drambuie cocktail that’s got the 1960’s written all over it! We put a little shine on this classic slow sipper.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) Scotch whisky
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) Drambuie
  • Ice, to serve (try clear ice!)
  • For the garnish: Lemon peel

Instructions

  1. Place the Scotch whiskey and Drambuie in a lowball glass and stir.
  2. Add a large ice cube.
  3. Use a knife to remove a 1″ wide strip of the lemon peel. Squeeze the lemon peel into the drink to release the oils. Gently run the peel around the edge of the glass, then place it in the glass and serve.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Rusty Nail

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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2 Comments

  1. How is this new and improved? It’s literally the same classic cocktail with a very slight alteration to the ratio. That’s like taking my old left sock and saying it’s now a “new” right sock. I am only upset because i was intrigued and then disappointed. How dare thee.