Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail is my favorite way to get rid of scotch that I just cannot drink neat. It’s dead simple: scotch, Drambuie, and bitters. The bitters and Drambuie do wonders to mask a scotch that I cannot abide but also cannot bring myself to throw away.

The cocktail first appeared in 1937 at the British Industries Fair and was originally called the B.I.F. (an abbreviation for the fair). Unsurprisingly, the name didn’t really catch on.

While it was finding its footing, according to David Wondrich, the drink went by a few different monikers: “here it’s a D&S… there a Little Club No. 1 (the Little Club being a rather swank sort of joint on East Fifty-fifth Street much haunted by showbiz types); at USAF Officers’ Clubs in Thailand and the Republic of Viet-Nam, it’s a Mig-21, while in the upper Midwest it’s a Knucklehead.” The drink surged in popularity in the 1960s because the Rat Pack frequently ordered it.

The final name is said to have come from the 21 Club in Manhattan and is likely named for the color, although there’s a lot of other (far better) stories of it coming from bartenders using a rusty nail to stir the drink.

The Rusty Nail’s signature ingredient is Drambuie, a scotch based liquor, sweetened with heather honey, and infused with herbs and spices. Drambuie on its own is very sweet (300 g/L of sugar), but with notes of oak, honey, and vanilla.

The Rusty Nail (an excellent way to drink the scotch you can’t drink neat)


  • 2 oz Scotch (Death & Co variant uses 2 oz while the classic version asks for 1.5 oz)
  • .75 oz Drambuie
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters


Cocktail Glass


  • Add all ingredients to a mixing glass.
  • Stir and strain into a rocks glass with an ice cube.
  • Note: you can also build it in the glass.

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