The History of the Rusty Nail

Published On October 31, 2013 | By Sam Henderson | Cocktails

The Rusty Nail by Sam Henderson for The Boys Club

The Rusty Nail has faded in and out of favor over the years. Its popularity peaked in the mid-20th century. Many attribute the zenith to the fact that the drink was reportedly a favorite among the Rat Pack. As the popularity of darker spirits gave way to lighter ones toward the latter part of the century, so faded the Rusty Nail. Today, renewed interest in mixology and classic drinks is helping the Rusty Nail make a comeback. The combination of blended scotch whiskey and Drambuie makes for a drink with a little sweetness and a little bite…no tetanus shot required.

The Rusty Nail by Sam Henderson for The Boys Club

The drink originated (in one form or another) somewhere around the 1930s. The facts surrounding the exact date are a bit murky. The most commonly held theory is that it got its final name from the famed 21 Club in New York sometime in the late 50s or early 60s. There is evidence, however, that suggests the drink existed under other names, such as Knucklehead, Little Club No.1 and B.I.F, as far back as the 1930s.

The Rusty Nail is 100-percent liquor (meant for smooth sipping). More specifically, as Drambuie is a scotch-based liqueur, you are getting a lot of scotch whiskey flavor. The subtle sweetness of the Drambuie paired with the lemon simply helps to tame some of the hotness of the scotch. Because of the straight-forwardness of it, you will want to be sure to choose a quality scotch whiskey to make this drink.

As with most cocktails with any lineage, there are many variations on the theme. We have presented a fairly safe starting point with our recipe, but you may like yours a little more or less sweet. To lessen the sweetness, simply increase the ratio of scotch to Drambuie.

The Rusty Nail by Sam Henderson for The Boys Club

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About The Author

Sam Henderson
is a father, a designer, and a businessman, Sam Henderson has a wide breadth of experiences and information from fitness and finance to cornbread and cornices. It's no wonder we've tapped him to be our history of mixology guy. He's also the man behind Today's Nest. Follow Sam on twitter @todaysnest.

3 Responses to The History of the Rusty Nail

  1. Greg Henry Greg Henry says:

    I can attest to the 1960s popularity of this drink. My “mad men” parents used to drink them all dressed up like movie stars. I was not much more than a toddler but I remember being baffled by the name “Rusty Nail”. I finally tasted one a couple years ago and despite all the allure I attached to it as a kid, as an adult I found it a little sweet. Great info here. Makes me want to try one again. Maybe with less Drambuie. GREG

  2. ReCaFo says:

    Nothing like a great cocktail after a day of stress.

  3. Pingback: Friday Cocktail Hour: The Rusty Nail | Michael Ruhlman

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