Rusty Nail (cocktail)

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Rusty Nail
IBA official cocktail
Rusty Nail a cocktail by @tokenchick13 (16503594826).jpg
Primary alcohol by volume
ServedOn the rocks; poured over ice
Standard garnishLemon zest
Standard drinkware
Old Fashioned Glass.svg
Old fashioned glass
IBA specified
PreparationPour all ingredients directly into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Stir gently.
TimingAfter Dinner
dagger Rusty Nail recipe at International Bartenders Association

A Rusty Nail is made by mixing Drambuie and Scotch whisky. The drink was included in Difford's Guide's Top 100 Cocktails.[1]

A Rusty Nail can be served in an old-fashioned glass on the rocks, neat, or "up" in a stemmed glass. It is most commonly served over ice. A Rusty Nail served without ice is sometimes called a Straight Up Nail.


Versions of the drink can be made using any aged spirit, though blended Scotch whisky is traditional.[2]

Other variations include:

  • The Rusty Bob, which substitutes Bourbon whisky for blended Scotch whisky
  • The Rusty Ale, in which a shot of Drambuie is added to any beer, served without ice.
  • The Smoky Nail, which uses Islay whisky (very smoky in flavor) in place of blended Scotch whisky.
  • The Clavo Ahumado (Spanish for "smoky nail"), using mezcal instead of blended Scotch whisky.[3]
  • The Railroad Spike, often served at brunch and made with approximately four parts Cold brewed coffee to one part Drambuie in a tall glass over ice.
  • The Donald Sutherland, which substitutes Canadian rye whisky for blended Scotch whisky.[4]


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.[5] 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."[5]

The cocktail authority Dale DeGroff notes, "the Rusty Nail is often credited to the clever bartenders at the 21 Club in Manhattan sometime in the early 1960s."[6] 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.[7] DeGroff observes 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."[6]


  1. ^ "World's top 100 cocktails". Difford's Guide. July 9, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  2. ^ "Rusty Nail recipe". Drinks Mixer. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Caporale, Anthony (July 9, 2013). "Tales of the Cocktail: Cocktails Made with Drambuie". Good Morning New Orleans. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b Wondrich, David. "Rusty Nail". Esquire. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Degroff, Dale. "Behind the Bar: The Rusty Nail". Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  7. ^ "Rusty Nail". Liquor And Drink. Retrieved December 3, 2013.