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The Rusty Nail

If you’re looking for a connection to the Rat Pack of the 1960s, you can’t do better than with a Rusty Nail.

rusty nail

This drink was, for a long time, the last word in sophistication, and it’s still a suave pick-me-up today. It’s simple, easy to make, and requires just two ingredients: Scotch and Drambuie.


The first time we know this cocktail appeared was in the late 1930s at a British Industries Fair in New York City. At the time, it was known as the BIF, and it was not terribly popular. It was just like today’s Nail only with a dash of bitters added in.

a glass of Rusty Nail

Fast forward into the mid-50s and suddenly the cocktail was back, going by a half dozen different names. Some of the more popular, in addition to the name we now know it by, included Mig 21, Little Club No. 1, D&S, and Knucklehead.

The reason the nail moniker stuck was down to the chairwoman of Drambuie, who wanted a settled name for a popular drink in which Drambuie features so heavily.

The Rat Pack Connection

The Rat Pack were a group of entertainers who enjoyed making movies (and music) together. The most famous members of the Pack were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.

They were also enamored with this cocktail, which powered their crazy antics while allowing them to look smooth at the same time.

This was the drink to have in your hand during the 1960s, and though it’s not as popular now as back then, it’s still a great drink to have in your repertoire.

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How to Make It

a glass of rusty nail and bottles of ingredients

Rusty Nail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes

The basic recipe for this drink couldn’t be simpler. All you need is one and a half ounces of Scotch and three-quarters of an ounce of Drambuie. You mix them with a bit of ice, stirring until they are well-chilled, and strain it out into a rocks glass with one ice cube.


  • 1.5 ounces Scotch whisky
  • 3/4 ounces Drambuie


  1. Pour the scotch and Drambuie into a mixing glass with ice
  2. Stir until thoroughly chilled
  3. Strain into a rocks glass with one ice cube

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One set of variations on the Nail is simply to vary your proportions.

Some people like two parts Scotch to one part Drambuie. Others like a one-to-one ratio. Fans of a very dry martini might be responsible for the four-parts whisky to one part Drambuie variation.

Some people substitute bourbon for the Scotch, in which case it may be called a Rusty Spike.

Some people like a dash of bitters, which was part of the original 30s recipe, but most find this unappealing.

Some will even throw in a splash of Cointreau, though you could argue that it’s no longer the same cocktail at that point.

However you like it, it’s a drink for those who appreciate fine alcohol. Enjoy!

See also  7 Cheap Scotch Whiskies to Try


What Is Drambuie?

Drambuie is a golden liqueur made from Scotch whisky, herbs and spices, heather, and some honey.

It’s been in private production since the late 1880s, though Scottish legend has it that Prince Charles Stuart, after losing the Battle of Culloden in 1746, fled to the isle of Skye and gave the recipe to John MacKinnon as a reward for sheltering him.

Who knows if that’s true; but it is true that Clan MacKinnon had the original recipe and gave it to James Ross, who was the first to bottle and sell Drambuie.

Why is a Rusty Nail called a rusty nail?

The name “rusty nail” has a few possible origins. Some say that it’s named for the pale yellow color of the drink that looks rusty, while others say that the drink was originally stirred with a rusty nail.

What is a substitute for Drambuie in a Rusty Nail?

Since there are only two ingredients in this drink, you really can’t substitute the Drambuie without drastically changing it. It’s not really a Rusty Nail without Drambuie.

That being said, you could mix your Scotch with amaretto instead to make a Godfather cocktail instead.

What flavor is Drambuie liqueur?

Drambuie has a sweet flavor that tastes like honey, anise, orange peel, spices, and oak. It’s whisky based, so it also has some whisky flavor to it.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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