Rusty nail (cocktail)

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Rusty nail
IBA official cocktail
The Rusty nail
Base spirit
ServedOn the rocks: poured over ice
Standard garnishOrange peel (optional)[a]
Standard drinkware
Old fashioned glass
IBA specified
PreparationPour all ingredients directly into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Stir gently.
Commonly servedAfter dinner
Rusty nail recipe at International Bartenders Association

A rusty nail is a cocktail made by mixing Scotch whisky with Drambuie in a 1:1 to 2:1 ratio. A rusty nail is most commonly served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass (a.k.a. a rocks glass), although it can also be served "up" in a stemmed glass. Its origin goes back to the 1937 British Industries Fair, but it did not become popular until the 1950s endorsement by New York's Club 21 and its recognition by popular culture as the go-to cocktail of the Rat Pack a decade later.[1]


Variations of the drink can be made using any aged spirit with the Drambuie (its one essential ingredient),[2] although using blended Scotch whisky in a 1 to 1 or 2 to 1 ratio is traditional.[3][4] The addition of additional Drambuie tends to sweeten the cocktail.[5][6] The cocktail can be garnished with a twist of citrus, usually orange, that will enhance the acidity and flavor.[7]

Other variations include:


According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, "...the Rusty Nail took a while to find its proper place in the world". The combination of Drambuie—"the world's most distinguished Scotch-based liqueur"—and the whisky it is made from first appears in 1937 in the form of the B.I.F., credited to one F. Benniman and ostensibly named after the British Industries Fair.[4] Wondrich goes on to note that. "it took another generation or so for the drink to assume its classic name and form, during which time it tried on several identities. 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, [sic] it's a Mig-21, while in the upper Midwest it's a Knucklehead."[4]

The cocktail authority Dale DeGroff said "the Rusty Nail is often credited to the clever bartenders at the 21 Club in Manhattan sometime in the early 1960s"[2][3] The cocktail's name was finally cemented in 1963, when Gina MacKinnon, the chairwoman of the Drambuie Liqueur Company, gave the rusty nail her endorsement in The New York Times.[3][9] DeGroff reported that in the early 1960s "...the Rat Pack was enamored of the drink, which may have been responsible for the wide appeal in those years..."[3]


  1. ^ IBA calls for lemon zest


  1. ^ Carlo DeVito, ed. (2016). The New Single Malt Whiskey. Cider Mill Press. p. 69. ISBN 9781604336474.
  2. ^ a b Essential Whisky Cocktail: Rusty Nail; The Whisky Advocate online; accessed February 2023
  3. ^ a b c d Degroff, Dale. "Behind the Bar: The Rusty Nail". Retrieved December 3, 2013. ...'Old Mister Boston' calls for a one-to-one ratio...
  4. ^ a b c Wondrich, David. "Rusty Nail". Esquire. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013. ...The quantities here are a rough ratio ... Half and half is too sweet for us, but some folks swear by it...
  5. ^ a b Hillibish, Jim (August 19, 2010). "Highland Fling: Drambuie isn't just for after dinner". Canton Repository. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2012. ...the blending of 1 part Drambuie to 1 part Scotch counterbalances the Scotch flavor...
  6. ^ "Rusty Nail recipe". Drinks Mixer. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Rusty Compass; article; accessed February 2023
  8. ^ Caporale, Anthony (July 9, 2013). "Tales of the Cocktail: Cocktails Made with Drambuie". Good Morning New Orleans. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  9. ^ "Rusty Nail". Liquor and Drink. Archived from the original on December 6, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)