One of my favorite and most under appreciated cocktails that deserves a second thought is the classic Rusty Nail, a simple concoction of blended scotch and a scotch based liqueur, Drambuie. According to David Wondrich, like most cocktails the true origins of the Rusty Nail lie in obscurity. He alludes to the cocktail’s humble beginnings in 1937 starting with a B.I.F (which stood for British Industries Fair) created by one F. Benjamin which called for 3 parts spirit to 1 part Drambuie and a dash of Angostura bitters. Sometime later, the swanky Little Club No. 1 served it much in the form as it is today, as a D&S. It wouldn’t be until the late 1960’s that it found it’s current namesake mentioned in The New York Times, which definitely helped spread the word and gain real notice.
Of course, American preferences turned away from classically style drinks during most of the latter 20th century in order to make way for more sweet, fruity, and colorful concoctions that, generally speaking, barely resembled a real cocktail. As such, the Rusty Nail fell into being labeled a “grandpa cocktail”. While simplistic in it’s design and taste, it is our current focus of revitalization. The wonderful thing about this particular cocktail is that it’s not one that I feel is passé in the least. On the contrary, I still enjoy one regularly, and as such I want to focus on more of a modern interpretation versus improvement. Doing so involves finding compliments to the lightly peated blended scotch, and the herb and honey flavors of Drambuie. I think bringing a little bitterness, vegetable and rich fruit will help compliment the peat, oak and honey and create a more nuanced cocktail that would attract a wider audience. The original recipe is as follows:
2 oz Blended Scotch
1/2 oz Drambuie
Build in an Old Fashioned glass, top with ice, and stir to lightly combine and chill. Enjoy.
Tooth & Nail
2 oz Single Malt Scotch ( I like a smooth Speyside or Highland such as The Macallan 12 year)
1/2 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Drambuie
1 1/2 tsp Amer Picon (or a good substitute like Torani Amer or Amaro CioCiaro)
2 dashes Peach Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Enjoy.
Color: Golden brown with a dark, orange tint
Flavor: Light peat, honey, peach, bitter orange and herbs
Texture: Smooth, rich and silky
I really love the way the bitter orange, artichoke and peach play with the toasted oak, peat and honey. It still has that rich, sweet character found in the original but with a touch more fruit and some bitterness to balance. I hope I’ve inspired you to take another look at a worthy and simple cocktail, and also find new and exciting ways to experiment with it. Cheers!