Rusty Nail Cocktail

Rusty Nail Cocktail recipe

The Spruce


  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
  • Yield: 1 cocktail
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
152 Calories
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 152
% 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 1mg 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, a very simple mix of scotch and Drambuie that is served on the rocks. It is designed to be a sophisticated, slow-sipping drink and it's excellent after dinner. Feel free to switch from blended to single malts and explore various brands, choosing a variety that is as top-shelf as you wish. (Don't worry, you will not be wasting a great scotch by mixing it into a rusty nail.) You may also want to adjust the ratio of the two spirits to fit your taste, as well as the type of whisky you're pouring at the moment.


  • 1 1/2 ounces scotch whisky

  • 3/4 ounce Drambuie

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Rusty Nail Cocktail recipe
     The Spruce
  2. Pour the ingredients into an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes.

    Rusty Nail Cocktail recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Stir well.

    Rusty Nail Cocktail recipe
     The Spruce


Recipe Variation

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 3:1 (2 ounces scotch and 1/2 ounce Drambuie).

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 along with 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 bottle and save the cheaper bottles for other drinks. Just because blended is preferred, however, don't rule out a single malt scotch; this drink enhances every regional nuance wonderfully. It's a perfect mixed drink for testing new bottles.

What's a Substitute for Drambuie?

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, it 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, and, at 80-proof, you won't even miss the whisky.

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.