The History of the Rusty Nail

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This potent blend of scotch whisky and Drambuie was a favourite of the Rat Pack back in the 1960s,
giving them the dutch courage they needed for their outrageous exploits whilst
ensuring they kept their air of suaveness and sophistication. The strength of
the cocktail only added to their cool façade, proving that they had a great
handle on life.

When Sinatra and friends were famous, what they drank was of extreme importance to their fans.
So, who created the drink enjoyed by the coolest boys in swing?

Who Created the Rusty Nail Cocktail?

The actual origin of the Rusty Nail is unknown, but its first recorded appearance was in New York at
an British Industries Fair. Some say that it was brought to the fair by a
representative from the 21 Club in Manhattan. First named the B.I.F, the drink
included a dash of bitters and was so unpopular that it disappeared from public
knowledge for a few years.

It suddenly became trendy in the 1950s, where it had a variety of different names, including Mig
21, Knucklehead, Little Club No 1 and D&S. The Rusty Nail moniker was the
one that stuck, however, thanks to the chairwoman of Drambuie, Gina MacKinnon,
who publicly insisted that be the winner. There are a few stories as to where
the name came from – the most popular is that it was originally stirred with a
rusty nail. Others insist the name came from the rusty nails that held the
cases of Drambuie together, or it could be that the golden tones in the
finished drink are what inspired the name.

Like the Rat Pack, however, the Rusty Nail seems to be a drink that is remembered fondly but rarely found on any modern cocktail lists. Is it time to bring it back?

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Variations of the Rusty Nail

While the base of Drambuie rarely changes in a Rusty Nail, bartenders have enjoyed experimenting with different spirits to replace the whisky. If you want to mix things up, try swapping the whisky for tequila, mescal or even gin. The richness and depth of flavour that comes from the Drambuie means that there is little need for any mixers or syrups in your cocktail.

The Rusty Nail is made with 100% liquor, save for a healthy serving of ice cubes, making it a drink to
be savored slowly and responsibly! It is perfect as an aperitif, helping to
cleanse the palate after dinner and bring an evening to a close.


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Bartender's top tip

Serving your cocktail in a chilled glass can greatly enhance its enjoyment, keeping it at the optimal temperature for longer. Simply fill the glass with ice and water to chill it while you prepare your drink, and then dump it out just before straining your cocktail into the glass. This is especially important for stirred, spirit-forward drinks like Martinis or Manhattans.

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