Penicillin Cocktail Recipe

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Penicillin Nutrition Facts






Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 7, 2024


The Penicillin cocktail was created in 2005 by bartender Sam Ross at the famous Milk & Honey bar in New York City. It is a modern classic that has gained popularity worldwide. The cocktail is inspired by the classic Whiskey Sour and Gold Rush cocktails, with the addition of ginger and Islay Scotch whisky for a unique twist.

  • The name 'Penicillin' comes from its soothing, medicinal qualities
  • It is often enjoyed by those who appreciate whiskey-based cocktails with a balance of sweet, sour, and smoky flavors
  • The Penicillin has become a staple in many high-end bars and is considered a modern classic

How Penicillin Tastes?

The Penicillin cocktail is a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky flavors. The honey and lemon provide a bright, refreshing sweetness, while the ginger adds a warm, spicy kick. The blended Scotch whisky gives the drink a smooth, rich base, and the Islay Scotch lends a distinct smoky, peaty finish.

Interesting facts about Penicillin

  • The Penicillin is often referred to as a 'gateway' cocktail for those who are new to Scotch whisky, as it showcases the spirit's versatility and complexity
  • Sam Ross, the creator of the Penicillin, has also invented other popular cocktails such as the Paper Plane and the East Side
  • The Penicillin has inspired numerous variations and riffs, with bartenders around the world putting their own spin on the recipe


A few good options for Penicillin are:

  • Brockmans
  • Silent Pool Gin
  • Hendrick's Gin

Learn everything on which Gin to choose

Blended Scotch whisky

Having a bold and malty base, the 2 oz of blended Scotch provides the backbone for the cocktail. Too much, and you might overpower the drink, turning it from a medicinal miracle into a boozy blunder. Too little, and you'll lose the Scotch's warm embrace.

Emma Rose

Lemon juice

At 0.75 oz, lemon juice adds the necessary zing to the mix, cutting through the sweetness and bringing balance. Skip it, and you're missing the tart vivacity that makes the Penicillin so refreshing. Overdo it, and pucker up – you're in for a sour surprise.

Mary Mitkina

Honey-ginger syrup

This sweet and spicy syrup, in perfect harmony with the Scotch, is your cocktail's proverbial spoonful of sugar - plus a ginger kick! Mess up the 0.75 oz ratio? Less, and you'll have guests questioning where that sweet warmth wandered off to. More, and it's a sticky situation of overpowering sweetness.

Alex Green

Islay Scotch whisky

Just a drizzle, 0.25 oz, of Islay Scotch whispers smoky secrets to your cocktail without shouting. It's like adding a dash of mystery to intrigue the senses. Forget it, and you forgo the complex finish that makes the Penicillin singular.

Emma Rose

Candied ginger

Weaving in a candied ginger garnish is not just for the looks; it's a flavor hint of what's to come and adds a nibble of spice. Playing with the garnish is like a cocktail's fashion - make a statement, but don't let it overshadow the ensemble.

Mary Mitkina

Recipe. How to make Penicillin Drink

  1. Prepare honey-ginger syrup:
    • Combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan
    • Add thinly sliced ginger and simmer for 10 minutes
    • Strain and let cool
  2. Build the cocktail:
    • In a shaker, combine blended Scotch whisky, lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup
    • Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds
  3. Strain and serve:
    • Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice
    • Float the Islay Scotch on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon
    • Garnish with a piece of candied ginger on a cocktail pick

Pro Tips

  • Use fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice will give a brighter, more vibrant flavor than bottled juice.
  • Chill your glass: A chilled glass will keep your cocktail cooler for longer, enhancing the overall experience.
  • Don't skimp on the Islay Scotch: The smoky, peaty flavor of Islay Scotch is a key component of this cocktail. Use a good quality Scotch for the best results.

Perfect Pairings


  • Grilled seafood: The smokiness of the grilled seafood complements the peaty notes from the Islay Scotch.
  • Sushi: The clean flavors of raw fish can be a nice counterbalance to the Penicillin's zesty and spicy notes.
  • Aged cheeses: The complexity of aged cheeses works well the depth of the Scotch whisky.

Main Courses

  • Roast pork: The sweet and savory mix of the honey-ginger syrup will go excellently with the flavors of roast pork.
  • Spiced duck: The rich and aromatic duck meat pairs splendidly with the zing of lemon and the zesty taste of ginger.


  • Lemon tart: The citrus in both the cocktail and the dessert will echo each other, for an enchanting palate experience.
  • Ginger biscuits: This pairing will enhance the ginger notes in the cocktail.

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What you could change in Penicillin

  • Ginger Ale: If you don't have time to make honey-ginger syrup, you can substitute it with ginger ale. However, this will alter the taste of the cocktail.
  • Bourbon: If you're not a fan of Scotch, you can use bourbon instead. This will give the cocktail a sweeter, smoother flavor.
  • Lime Juice: If you don't have lemon juice, you can use lime juice. This will give the cocktail a slightly more tart flavor.

Explore all drinks starting with P here

And of course - twists🍹

Honeyed Apple Penicillin

  • Substitute honey-ginger syrup with apple-honey syrup and top with a thin apple slice. It highlights autumnal notes and gives a fruitier, cozier twist to the original.

Herbal Penicillin

  • Add a sprig of thyme or rosemary to the shaker before shaking. It infuses the cocktail with herbal notes creating a botanical experience complementing the spicy ginger.

Spiced Penicillin

  • Rim the glass with a mix of sugar and ground cinnamon before pouring the drink. The sweet-spice aroma enhances every sip, turning the cocktail into a warm embrace on a chilly night.

In case you forgot basics how to make Penicillin

Add your ingredients to the shaker first, then ice. Fill it up to ¾ of its capacity to ensure enough space for shaking. Hold the shaker with both hands (one on the top and one on the bottom) and shake vigorously. The shake should come from your shoulders, not your wrists.

Learn everything on how to shake

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Penicillin

What is the origin of the name 'Penicillin' for the cocktail?

The cocktail is named 'Penicillin' due to its alleged medicinal properties and soothing effects, much like the antibiotic of the same name.

What kind of Scotch whisky is recommended for this cocktail?

For the Penicillin cocktail, it's preferable to use a high-quality blended Scotch for the base and an Islay Scotch for the float. The smoky characteristics of the Islay Scotch play a significant role in the overall flavor profile of this cocktail.

Can I make a non-alcoholic version of the Penicillin cocktail?

Yes, you can substitute the Scotch whisky with non-alcoholic whisky or ginger ale for a non-alcoholic version of the Penicillin. However, the flavors will not be the same as the original cocktail.

Is the Penicillin cocktail suitable for vegans?

Yes, the Penicillin cocktail is suitable for vegans as it doesn't contain any animal products. But always check the labels of the individual ingredients to be certain.

Does the Penicillin cocktail contain gluten?

Scotch whisky is made from barley, which contains gluten. However, the distillation process removes most of the gluten. People with a gluten intolerance should still exercise caution.

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