Rusty Nail

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Ever notice how some cocktails take off like a shot and then disappear from the cocktail lexicon before someone discovers them again and gives them a rebirth? Yes, there are those drinks that are classics as soon as they’re created, like the Manhattan or the Martini. But there are other cocktails out there that take a little time to gather a following. The Rusty Nail is one such cocktail.

It may be a pretty popular drink now, but when it was first created it wasn’t event called a Rusty Nail. As a matter of fact, it didn’t become the Rusty Nail until the 60’s, when Drambuie chairwoman, Gina MacKinnon, tasted the drink and declared that it should henceforth be called the Rusty Nail. Incidentally, this is about the same time it gained popularity, which might be why MacKinnon gave the drink it’s official name.

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It kind of makes sense. I mean, if people all over were ordering the same drink, shouldn’t it be called the same thing? Believe it or not when this cocktail was originally created in England in the 30’s it was called a B.I.F. for the British Industries Fair. In Thailand it was known as the MiG-21, after the fighter plane. It was also known as the D&S because, well, it’s made with Drambuie and Scotch. In New York, it was called a “Little Club No. 1,” after a hip watering hole on East 55th Street, and in the Midwest, they called it the Knucklehead. But with all these names, why in the world did MacKinnon settle on Rusty Nail? Well, the story goes (and with drinks this old there always seems to be a story) that a Scottish bartender was so upset by a rude American customer, that he stirred the drink with a rusty nail. While I’m pretty sure this story isn’t true, it does make for a great moniker.

So, how did the Rusty Nail finally become the popular drink it is today? Well, a cocktail won’t gather a following if it doesn’t taste good, and the Rusty Nail is quite tasty. Even if you’re not a scotch fan (which I’m not), the spicy, sweet flavors from the Drambuie elevate the drink making it ideal for sipping after dinner by the fire. But the real reason behind the cocktail’s resurgence is probably thanks to that small Pack from the 60’s. You know… those guys who were headed up by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin? Yes, it’s true that more often than not Frank could be found with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, but every so often he would also enjoy a Rusty Nail. So, if the Rusty Nail was good enough for Frank and his crew, then it’s definitely good enough for me.

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Rusty Nail


  • 2 ounces scotch
  • 1 ounce Drambuie
  • lemon twist


  1. Pour the scotch and Drambuie in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir to combine the flavors. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, add a twist of lemon and serve.