Rusty Nails vs The Rusty Nail

There are many stories I could tell regarding Rusty Nails including all the ones that Dad had rescued for us to straighten in preparation for him to re-use them…..the ones my brother Chris started to recycle once he was an adult and realised the cost of purchasing new ones….. the one I accidentally sat on as a child while learning to pull nails out of timber for re-use……

Rusty Nails
Rusty Nails

…but the most inportant of all was the discovery of THE Rusty Nail!

This is a classic Cocktail is made by mixing Drambuie and Scotch whisky.  Scotch whisky has a fairly biting and hot taste that is counterbalanced by the honeyed, herbal overtones of the Drambuie.

The combination of Drambuie and the whisky it is made from first appears in 1937 in the form of the B.I.F although it took another generation or so for the drink to assume its classic name and form, during which time it tried on several other identities.

The Rusty Nail is often credited to the  bartenders at the 21 Club in Manhattan sometime in the early 1960s.  The cocktail’s name was finally cemented in 1963,  the Drambuie Liqueur Company endorsed the Rusty Nail  in The New York Times.

The Rusty Nail
The Rusty Nail
  • 2 parts Scotch Whisky
  • 1 part Drambuie (or other Scothc Liqueur such as Lochan Ora)
  • Ice (optional)
  • Citrus twist or a Cherry (also optional)
  1. Select a glass traditionally an ‘Old fashioned’ Glass
  2. Add ingredients
  3. Stir and enjoy, through a straw if you have one

The beauty of a simple built cocktail is that anyone can make them – and this is one of the early cocktails that my children learnt to make me.  As they got older they realised that they could exploit my request for a Rusty Nail by selecting a larger glass to build it in…..and then doing as they pleased for the rest of the evening as a sloshed mother = no rules.


  • Can be served in an old-fashioned glass on the rocks, neat, or “up” in a stemmed glass.
  • A Rusty Nail served without ice is sometimes called a Straight Up Nail.
  • The Rusty Ale – in which a shot of Drambuie is added to any beer, served without ice.
  • The Smoky Nail – which uses Islay whisky (very smoky in flavor) in place of blended Scotch whisky.
  • The Clavo Ahumado –  (Spanish for “smoky nail”), using Tequila or Mezcal instead of blended Scotch whisky.
  • The Railroad Spike – made with approximately four parts cold brewed coffee to one part Drambuie in a tall glass over ice.
  • The Donald Sutherland – which substitutes Canadian rye whisky for blended Scotch whisky.

Both Rusty Nails and The Rusty Nail will always have a place in my heart.


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