Penicillin Cocktail Recipe

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.

August 9, 2023


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

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.

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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.

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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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Extra information to help you 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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