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Thirst-day – The Rusty Nail cocktail

How to make a Rusty Nail

Enjoyed last week’s Rob Roy? This week, we’ll mix a Rusty Nail – a drink that’s as tough as gnarly old boots. In fact, the drink is so manly there’s a legend that Scots used to stir this drink around their glasses with an actual rusty nail.

History of the Rusty Nail

According to cocktail expert David Wondrich, the Rusty Nail took a while to find its place in the world. There were no mentions of the Drambuie-whiskey combination during the first 28 years of the Drambuie’s existence.

In 1937, the combination (three parts liquor to one part liqueur, with a dash of Angostura bitters) was served in public by one F. Benniman. It later took on several identities:

  • The D & S (if brandy and Bénédictine make a B & B)
  • The Little Club No. 1 (the “Little Club” being a swanky joint on East Fifty-fifth Street visited by “showbiz types”
  • The Mig-21 at USAF Officers’ Clubs in Thailand and Vietnam
  • The Knucklehead in the upper Midwest.

But enough about history. Here’s how to make the classic Rusty Nail:

Rusty Nail Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Scotch whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Drambuie
  • 1 old-fashioned glass
  • 1 twist lemon peel
  • 1 stirrer
  • Ice cubes


  1. Fill up an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes.
  2. Pour 2 oz. of Scotch whiskey into the glass.
  3. Pour 1/2 oz. of Drambuie into the glass.
  4. Stir the drink gently with your stirrer. Take care not to bruise the ice. Stir the drink until you see some condensation on the outside of the glass.
  5. Garnish your Rusty Nail with a twist of lemon peel.

Note: if you serve the drink without ice, it’s going to be called a Straight Up Nail.

Garnish your Rusty Nail with a lemon twist


In addition to the Straight Up Nail, there are several other versions of the Rusty Nail. This includes:

  • The Rusty Ale – A shot of Drambuie is mixed to beer, then served without ice.
  • The Rusty Bob – Instead of Scotch, use Bourbon.
  • The Clavo Ahumado – Instead of Scotch, use Mezcal.
  • The Donald Sutherland – Instead of Scotch, use Canadian whiskey.
  • The Railroad Spike – Made with one part Drambuie and four parts cold brew coffee.
  • The Smoky Nail – Instead of Scotch, use Islay whiskey.