Rusty Nail Cocktail

Rusty nail cocktail in an old-fashioned glass with ice

The Spruce Eats 

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
52 Calories
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 52
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 0mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 0mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The rusty nail is the ultimate scotch cocktail. It's a very simple mixture of just two ingredients—scotch and Drambuie—and served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass. It is designed to be a sophisticated, slow-sipping drink, and it's excellent after dinner.

Why Is It Called a Rusty Nail?

Like many cocktail stories, the true origin of the rusty nail is lost to history. There are speculations, including that it was introduced in 1937 at the British Industries Fair in a version that also included a dash of bitters. Another account credits its invention to Manhattan's 21 Club (possibly in the '60s), where the B&B is also said to have originated.

It's also unclear when and why the cocktail took its name. One common tale says that it was originally stirred with a rusty nail, while another attributes it to the drink's color. One thing that is not up for debate is that this was a preferred drink for the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra's gang of five) and they helped its rise to fame.

What's the Best Scotch for a Rusty Nail?

Blended Scotch whisky is typically used in the rusty nail. Choose a mid- to high-end Scotch, such as Famous Grouse and save the cheaper bottles for other drinks. Don't worry, you will not be wasting a great scotch by mixing it into a rusty nail.

Just because blended is preferred, however, don't rule out a single malt scotch; this drink enhances every regional nuance of Scotch wonderfully. It's a perfect mixed drink for testing new bottles. You can also swap out scotch for another type of whiskey.

What Exactly Is Drambuie—and Can You Substitute Another Liqueur?

Drambuie is a proprietary liqueur recipe of honey and spices with a scotch base, and its taste is unlike any other liqueur on the market. There's no great substitute and, if replaced, your cocktail will no longer be a true rusty nail.

The closest liqueur alternative is Glayva, though it's softer, and Chivas Regal's Lochan Ora, which has been discontinued. Neither of those is as easy to find as Drambuie, which is a smart bottle to have in your bar. Not only can you enjoy a rusty nail any time you please, but Drambuie can also be useful in a variety of other cocktails. Plus, it is fabulous on its own or with ginger ale.

Rusty Nail Tips

  • Garnish if you'd like: Although the rusty nail is typically ungarnished, some drinkers like a lemon twist garnish.
  • Add a dash of bitters: If you like an herbal edge to your drink, try adding a dash of Angostura bitters.
  • Up your ice game: Consider serving it over a slow-melting iceball to reduce dilution and retain the drink's full flavor.
  • Play with the proportions: As with many simple classic cocktails, the proportions of the two ingredients will depend on your personal taste. The 2:1 ratio in the recipe is a good starting point, though many rusty nail fans enjoy 4:1 (2 ounces scotch and 1/2 ounce Drambuie).

Click Play to See This Rusty Nail Cocktail Recipe Come Together

"Scotch doesn't have a lot of classic cocktails to its name; the rusty nail is one of the worthy few. It's somewhat like a Scotch old fashioned with the spices in the Drambuie serving as the bitters. This is the classic ratio for a rusty nail." —Tom Macy

Rusty nail cocktail tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 1/2 ounces Scotch whisky

  • 3/4 ounce Drambuie

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for rusty nail cocktail recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats

  2. Pour the ingredients into an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes.

    Rusty nail cocktail in an old-fashioned glass with ice

    The Spruce Eats

  3. Stir well. Serve and enjoy.

    Rusty nail cocktail in an old-fashioned glass with lemon peel twist and long spoon on the side

    The Spruce Eats

How Strong Is the Rusty Nail?

The rusty nail is typically made with two 80-proof liquors, though scotch can be stronger. That means it's not only full of flavor but is also among the strongest cocktails you can mix up. On average, the rusty nail's alcohol content falls around 33 percent ABV (66 proof), or just slightly lower than the whisky's bottling strength.