The Rusty Nail Cocktail History, Recipe and Variations

The Rusty Nail Cocktail History, Recipe and Variations

When it comes to classic cocktails, the Rusty Nail is one that stands the test of time. This simple yet sophisticated drink has been around since the 1950s and remains a popular choice for those looking to enjoy a smooth and strong cocktail. Whether you're a fan of whiskey or just looking to try something new, the Rusty Nail is a great option. Let's take a closer look at this timeless cocktail.

Rusty Nail Cocktail with Orange Garnish

Origins of the Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail cocktail was first created in the 1950s by a bartender named F. Benniman at the 21 Club in New York City. The cocktail is said to have been created for a regular customer who loved the taste of Scotch and wanted a cocktail that would allow him to savor its unique flavor. The original recipe called for equal parts of Scotch and Drambuie, a sweet Scottish liqueur made from honey, herbs, and spices.

Over time, the recipe has evolved to include a variety of different ratios of Scotch and Drambuie. Some prefer a higher ratio of Scotch, while others prefer a more balanced approach. The addition of a twist of lemon or orange peel is also common.


To make a Rusty Nail, you'll need the following ingredients:

  • 2 oz Scotch whiskey
  • 1 oz Drambuie
  • Twist of lemon or orange peel (optional)


  • Fill a rocks glass with ice.

  • Pour in the Scotch 

  • Stir gently to chill scotch

  • Add Drambuie
  • Add a twist of lemon or orange peel if desired.
  • Enjoy! 

Woman enjoying a homemade cocktail


The Rusty Nail is a versatile cocktail that can be customized to suit your personal taste. Here are a few variations to try:

  1. Rusty Ale: This variation of the Rusty Nail swaps the Scotch for ale, resulting in a lighter and more refreshing cocktail.

  2. Smoky Nail: For those who love a smoky flavor, the Smoky Nail uses a peaty Scotch whiskey and adds a drop of smoked maple syrup.

  3. Rusty Martini: This variation combines gin and Drambuie for a unique twist on the classic Martini.

  4. Smoked Rusty Nail: This variation is sans smoked maple for those who want less sweetness. Instead add liquid smoke and garnish with fresh rosemary sprig to enhance the deeper notes and savory experience.


The Rusty Nail may be a simple cocktail, but its unique combination of Scotch and Drambuie makes it a classic that's stood the test of time. Whether you prefer a more balanced cocktail or a stronger, more whiskey-forward version, the Rusty Nail is a great option for any occasion. So next time you're in the mood for a strong and smooth cocktail, give the Rusty Nail a try!

Back to blog