Rusty Nail Cocktail Drink

Rusty Nail

A shot of Gavin Wrigley looking to the camera in a dimly lit room
Written by Gavin Wrigley
Andrea
Tested by
Andrea Ottaiano

This Rusty Nail recipe is a winner! It’s simple ingredients make this cocktail a treat every time.

Rusty Nail Recipe

Warm up with this classic Rusty Nail recipe! Made with Scotch and Drambuie, this smooth cocktail is perfect for an evening unwind.

Prep time:

1 minute

Mixing time:

1 minute

Servings:

1

Calories:

186 kl

Ingredients

  • oz Scotch Whisky
  • ¾ oz Drambuie
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon twist, for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Old Fashioned Glass
  • Measuring Jigger
  • Stirrer or Bar Spoon

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Fill your Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes.
  • Add Drambuie: Measure and pour ¾ oz Drambuie over the ice into your glass.
  • Add Scotch: Pour 1½ oz Scotch Whisky into your glass.
  • Stir Gently: Stir the ingredients gently with a bar spoon.
  • Garnish: Garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes

Substitutes:

  • Scotch Whisky: When I don't have Scotch on hand, I sometimes use bourbon. It offers a sweeter, richer profile that pairs well with Drambuie. For a smokier edge, consider using a peated Scotch.
  • Drambuie: If Drambuie eludes you, a mix of honey, herbs, and Scotch can emulate its flavor. Try 0.5 oz of honey, a pinch of dried herbs (like rosemary), and top up with 0.25 oz of Scotch. It won't be perfect, but it gets close!

Making a Pitcher:

  • Scale: For a pitcher serving 8, use 12 oz of Scotch and 6 oz of Drambuie.
  • Mix: In a large pitcher, combine the Scotch and Drambuie. Stir them together.
  • Serve: Dispense the mixture into ice-filled Old Fashioned glasses, garnish with a lemon twist, and let your guests enjoy.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • Scotch Substitute: Opt for a non-alcoholic whisky or a smoky tea for that distinctive flavor.
  • Drambuie Substitute: Blend non-alcoholic herbal tea with a touch of honey to capture some of Drambuie's essence.
  • Proceed As Usual: Replace the standard ingredients with the non-alcoholic alternatives and follow the main instructions. Adjust to taste, and you're good to go!

Making it Vegan:

The primary concern for a vegan version revolves around honey, often used in Drambuie. When seeking a vegan substitute for Drambuie, consider a blend of agave nectar or maple syrup with herbs and whisky.

Nutrition Facts

Calories
186
% Daily Value*
Carbohydrates
 
7
g
2
%
Sugar
 
0.04
g
0
%
Potassium
 
0.4
mg
0
%
Iron
 
0.01
mg
0
%

 

Rusty Nail Cocktail Drink

Rusty Nail Recipe

Gavin Wrigley Written by Gavin Wrigley
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Warm up with this classic Rusty Nail recipe! Made with Scotch and Drambuie, this smooth cocktail is perfect for an evening unwind.
Prep time: 1 minute
Mixing time: 1 minute
Servings: 1
Calories: 186

Ingredients
 

  • oz Scotch Whisky
  • ¾ oz Drambuie
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon twist - for garnish, optional

Equipment

  • Old Fashioned Glass
  • Measuring Jigger
  • Stirrer or Bar Spoon

Instructions

  • Prep Glass: Fill your Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes.
  • Add Drambuie: Measure and pour ¾ oz Drambuie over the ice into your glass.
  • Add Scotch: Pour 1½ oz Scotch Whisky into your glass.
  • Stir Gently: Stir the ingredients gently with a bar spoon.
  • Garnish: Garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes

Substitutes:

  • Scotch Whisky: When I don't have Scotch on hand, I sometimes use bourbon. It offers a sweeter, richer profile that pairs well with Drambuie. For a smokier edge, consider using a peated Scotch.
  • Drambuie: If Drambuie eludes you, a mix of honey, herbs, and Scotch can emulate its flavor. Try 0.5 oz of honey, a pinch of dried herbs (like rosemary), and top up with 0.25 oz of Scotch. It won't be perfect, but it gets close!

Making a Pitcher:

  • Scale: For a pitcher serving 8, use 12 oz of Scotch and 6 oz of Drambuie.
  • Mix: In a large pitcher, combine the Scotch and Drambuie. Stir them together.
  • Serve: Dispense the mixture into ice-filled Old Fashioned glasses, garnish with a lemon twist, and let your guests enjoy.

Making it Non-Alcoholic:

  • Scotch Substitute: Opt for a non-alcoholic whisky or a smoky tea for that distinctive flavor.
  • Drambuie Substitute: Blend non-alcoholic herbal tea with a touch of honey to capture some of Drambuie's essence.
  • Proceed As Usual: Replace the standard ingredients with the non-alcoholic alternatives and follow the main instructions. Adjust to taste, and you're good to go!

Making it Vegan:

The primary concern for a vegan version revolves around honey, often used in Drambuie. When seeking a vegan substitute for Drambuie, consider a blend of agave nectar or maple syrup with herbs and whisky.

What is a Rusty Nail?

Rusty Nail is a whiskey cocktail that combines Scotch and Drambuie. Its name, while intriguing, doesn’t have a colorful history tied to its ingredients or creation. People appreciate the Rusty Nail’s simplicity and the harmony between its key components. You might think such a cocktail requires a bar expert’s touch, but its elegance lies in its simplicity. This Rusty Nail character is classic and effortless, making it a favorite among many.

A side shot of a Rusty Nail cocktail in old fashioned glass on a black table surrounded by three lemons, a jigger, a plant, and a white cloth.

What is a Rusty Nail made of – The ingredients

Assembling a Rusty Nail demands these select ingredients:

  • Scotch Whisky: The base spirit that provides the Rusty Nail with its robust and smoky foundation.
  • Drambuie: A liqueur infused with honey, herbs, and spices, it adds sweetness and complexity to the drink.

Scotch Whisky and Drambuie laid out on a white bar table

How do you make a Rusty Nail?

Embark on the journey of crafting an Rusty Nail with our stepwise tutorial:

1
<p>Start by filling an Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes to chill the glass.</p>

Start by filling an Old Fashioned glass with ice cubes to chill the glass.

2
<p>Pour Drambuie over the ice to introduce a sweet and herbal complexity.</p>

Pour Drambuie over the ice to introduce a sweet and herbal complexity.

3
<p>Add Scotch Whisky into your glass, establishing the primary flavor of the cocktail.</p>

Add Scotch Whisky into your glass, establishing the primary flavor of the cocktail.

4
<p>Gently stir the ingredients together, ensuring they meld seamlessly.</p>

Gently stir the ingredients together, ensuring they meld seamlessly.

5
<p>Finish squeezing a lemon peel over the glass, to add a hint of citrus aroma and flavor.</p>

Finish squeezing a lemon peel over the glass, to add a hint of citrus aroma and flavor.

6
<p>Rub it over the rim of your glass.</p>

Rub it over the rim of your glass.

7
<p>Drop the lemon twist into the glass. Enjoy your Rusty Nail cocktail!</p>

Drop the lemon twist into the glass. Enjoy your Rusty Nail cocktail!

Can I make a Rusty Nail with Bourbon?

Bourbon in a Rusty Nail? Why not! While the traditional Rusty Nail leans on Scotch for its smoky foundation, swapping it out for bourbon introduces a sweeter and often oakier backdrop. When you use bourbon, the honey and herbal notes of the Drambuie shine, creating a bridge to bourbon’s inherent caramel and vanilla flavors. Brands like Bulleit, Maker’s Mark, and Buffalo Trace offer robust profiles that can stand up to Drambuie’s richness. I’d recommend using Wild Turkey 101 if you’re giving this a shot. It’s higher proof and spicy kick bring a delightful twist, ensuring that your bourbon-based Rusty Nail remains as memorable as its Scotch counterpart. Try it; you might discover your new favorite way to enjoy this classic.

Rusty Nail vs Old Fashioned Cocktail

A Rusty Nail and an Old Fashioned are iconic in the cocktail world, yet they stand apart in their composition and taste. The Rusty Nail elegantly blends Scotch whisky with Drambuie, a liqueur imbued with honey’s sweetness and the herbs’ complexity. The Old Fashioned, meanwhile, relies on the depth of bourbon or rye whiskey, harmoniously paired with sugar and bitters. When it comes to flavor, the Rusty Nail is characterized by the smoky undertones of Scotch melded with the herbal richness of Drambuie. The Old Fashioned presents a different palette, emphasizing the whiskey’s richness, countered by the bitters’ aromatic depth and sugar sweetness. Garnishing further distinguishes the drinks. The Rusty Nail might feature a simple lemon twist or none, while the Old Fashioned often boasts an orange twist or a cherry. The preparation methods also diverge: the Old Fashioned involves a muddling process to blend the sugar, bitters, and a splash of water, while the Rusty Nail simply requires stirring its ingredients over ice. While both drinks have storied pasts, the Old Fashioned boasts a longer history, recognized as one of the very first cocktails, whereas the Rusty Nail’s widespread acclaim surged in the 1960s. In essence, each drink offers a distinct celebration of whisky, marked by its unique ingredients and preparation nuances.

A Rusty Nail cocktail, shot form above, in old fashioned glass on a black table surrounded by two lemons, a knife, a jigger, and a white cloth.

Variations

Wondering about additional variants? Discover our cherished recommendations.

  • Rusty Bob: Swaps the traditional Scotch base for bourbon, introducing a lighter, vanilla-forward flavor profile. The inherent sweetness of bourbon combines beautifully with the herbal notes of Drambuie, creating a smoother, sweeter finish. The rich vanilla essence appeals to me, making it an exceptional choice for a smooth and enjoyable after-dinner treat.
  • Smoky Nail: Adds a smoky element, perhaps through smoky Scotch or a dash of mezcal, bringing depth and complexity. This smokiness complements the sweetness of Drambuie, offering a balanced and robust flavor profile. I find the smoky undertones particularly appealing, as they provide a balanced contrast to the sweetness, making it perfect for a chilly evening sip.
  • Donald Sutherland: Incorporates orange juice with Scotch and Drambuie, creating a lighter, citrus-forward profile. This addition refreshes and invigorates, making it a delightful summer drink. The vibrant citrus kick is something I particularly enjoy, providing a fresh and appealing burst of flavor that brightens the overall experience.

A side shot of a Rusty Nail cocktail in old fashioned glass on a black table surrounded by four lemons, a Drambuie bottle, a Scotch Whisky bottle and a white cloth.

History and Origin

The Rusty Nail boasts a somewhat mysterious origin, but most tales trace its roots back to the 1960s. While the blend of Scotch and Drambuie likely predates this period, it first gained significant attention during this decade.

The Rat Pack, a famous group of entertainers led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., often gets credit for popularizing the Rusty Nail. Their frequent visits to the 21 Club in New York City, where they reportedly enjoyed this drink, played a key role in its surge in popularity.

Drambuie, one of the cocktail’s primary ingredients, has a much older history. It’s a Scottish liqueur that dates back to the 18th century. Legend holds that it was the personal elixir of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who gave the secret recipe to the MacKinnon family as a token of thanks.

The name “Rusty Nail” came into use in the early 1960s. Some speculate that bartenders coined the term because the drink originally got stirred with a rusty nail, but no concrete evidence supports this theory. Regardless of its origins, the Rusty Nail remains a beloved classic in the world of mixology.

A Rusty Nail cocktail, shot form above, in old fashioned glass on white marmol table surrounded by a Drambuie bottle, and a Scotch Whisky bottle.

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FAQ

How many calories does a Rusty Nail contain?
A standard version typically has around 180-220 calories, depending on the specific ingredients and proportions.
How strong is a Rusty Nail?
The strength varies based on the Scotch and Drambuie used, but it averages around 35% ABV (70 proof).
What type of alcohol is used in a Rusty Nail?
The cocktail primarily uses Scotch whisky and Drambuie, a honeyed whisky liqueur.
In which glass is a Rusty Nail usually served?
Traditionally, it's served in an Old Fashioned glass.
What does a Rusty Nail taste like?
The drink has a harmonious blend of smoky Scotch with the sweet and herbal notes of Drambuie.
What is the typical ratio of ingredients in a Rusty Nail?
The common ratio is 1:1, equal parts Scotch to Drambuie, but some prefer a 2:1 ratio favoring the Scotch.
How is a Rusty Nail typically served concerning ice and presentation?
It's typically served over ice, often called "on the rocks".

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