Rusty Nail Cocktail Recipe

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Rusty Nail 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 Rusty Nail is a classic cocktail that dates back to the 1930s. It gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and it's a favorite among whiskey lovers. The drink is a simple combination of Scotch whisky and Drambuie, a liqueur made from Scotch whisky, honey, herbs, and spices.

  • The Rusty Nail is said to have been created by the 21 Club in New York City.
  • It was popularized by the Rat Pack, a group of entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.
  • The name 'Rusty Nail' is thought to come from the practice of stirring the drink with a rusty nail, though this is likely a myth.

How Rusty Nail Tastes?

The Rusty Nail is a smooth, sweet, and slightly spicy cocktail with a strong, warming whiskey backbone. The honey and herbal notes from the Drambuie complement the smoky, peaty flavors of the Scotch.

Interesting facts about Rusty Nail

  • The Rusty Nail is often served as a digestif, enjoyed after a meal to aid digestion.
  • Drambuie, the key ingredient in a Rusty Nail, is made from a secret recipe that dates back to the 18th century.
  • The Rusty Nail is sometimes called a 'D&S' or 'Scotch and Drambuie' in the UK.


Scotch whisky

Scotch is the backbone of the Rusty Nail, providing a smoky, peaty base that contrasts with the sweetness of Drambuie. The 1.5 oz portion is generous enough to assert itself without overpowering. Miss out on Scotch and you'll have no 'Nail' to get rusty!

Emma Rose


This honeyed liqueur with hints of herbs and spices is what sweetens and complexifies the mix, making the 0.75 oz a perfect 'sweet-spot' to mingle without turning the drink cloy. Skip it, and you've only got Scotch — not a Rusty Nail!

Alex Green


Without ice, our Rusty Nail would be a bit like sunbathing in Siberia – doable, but hardly pleasant! Ice chills the drink and dilutes the spirits just enough to smooth the edges.

Mary Mitkina

Lemon twist

It adds a zesty, aromatic finish that plays against the sweet and smoky notes. Forgo the lemon and you'll lose that citrusy highlight that brightens the Rusty Nail's dark allure.

Emma Rose

Recipe. How to make Rusty Nail Drink

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  2. Add 1.5 oz of Scotch whisky and 0.75 oz of Drambuie.
  3. Stir the mixture until well chilled.
  4. Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
  5. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Pro Tips

  • Use quality Scotch whisky. The better the whisky, the better the cocktail.
  • Don't overdo the Drambuie. It's sweet and strong, so a little goes a long way.
  • Stir, don't shake. This helps to maintain the clarity and smoothness of the drink.

Perfect Pairings

Food Pairings

  • Cheese board: A selection of aged cheeses such as cheddar or gouda will complement the honeyed notes of Drambuie.
  • Smoked salmon: The smokiness of the salmon pairs nicely with the peaty Scotch whisky.
  • Dark chocolate: A piece of dark chocolate can accentuate the richness and depth of the cocktail.

Drink Pairings

  • Coffee: Sip on a Rusty Nail alongside a strong espresso to enhance the robust flavors.
  • Water: A glass of still or sparkling water can cleanse the palate in between sips of the cocktail.

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What you could change in Rusty Nail

  • Scotch whisky: Can be replaced with Bourbon for a sweeter, less smoky flavor.
  • Drambuie: There's no direct substitute, but you could try a mix of honey, Scotch, and herbs.
  • Lemon twist: An orange twist can also be used for a different citrus note.

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And of course - twists🍹

Rusty Nail with Bourbon

Replace Scotch with Bourbon, which brings a sweeter, more vanilla-forward profile. Keep the Drambuie for that herbal kick.

  • Bourbon: 1.5 oz
  • Drambuie: 0.75 oz Stir and garnish as usual, and get ready for a Rusty Nail with an American twist.

Spiced Rusty Nail

  • Scotch whisky: 1.5 oz
  • Drambuie: 0.5 oz
  • Cinnamon liqueur: 0.25 oz Mix for a warmly spiced variant that tickles the nose and warms the soul.

Rusty Nail with a Citrus Twist

  • Scotch whisky: 1.5 oz
  • Drambuie: 0.75 oz
  • Orange bitters: A few dashes This version has an extra citrus punch; think of it as a Rusty Nail that's found a sunny spot in a winter's evening.

In case you forgot basics how to make Rusty Nail

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

Insert the spoon into the glass until it touches the bottom. Keep the back of the spoon against the inside wall of the glass, and stir in a smooth, circular motion. The goal is to swirl the ice and ingredients together without churning or splashing.

Learn everything on how to stir

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 Rusty Nail

What kind of ice is best to use for a Rusty Nail cocktail?

You can use any kind of ice that you prefer, but large cubes are often used in whiskey-based cocktails like the Rusty Nail to slow dilution and keep the drink strong.

Can I use a different type of glass to serve a Rusty Nail?

While traditionally served in a rocks glass, the Rusty Nail can be served in any type of glass according to your preference. However, using different types of glasses may alter the taste and presentation of the cocktail.

Is the Rusty Nail considered a strong cocktail?

Yes, the Rusty Nail is a strong cocktail due to its high whisky content. The Drambuie also contains whisky, making it quite potent. However, the sweetness from the Drambuie helps to soften the blow.

Can I drink a Rusty Nail if I'm allergic to honey?

You should avoid drinking a Rusty Nail if you're allergic to honey, since Drambuie, one of its main ingredients, contains honey.

What other drinks can be made using Drambuie?

Besides the Rusty Nail, Drambuie can be used to make other cocktails like the Rob Roy or the Bumblebee. It can also be served on its own, either neat or on the rocks.

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