“You’re gonna be a Scotch drinker,” my Grandma Rose said to me at the end of a Christmas dinner, with an approving smile.
I was all of about six years old. This was still the 1960s and everybody drank. I had asked for, and was given, a sip of my father’s after-dinner cordial, a tiny glass of Drambuie, and had claimed to like it. I did like it, in fact—unlike that nasty martini my father would often have (story of that first taste here). The Drambuie was syrupy sweet and I marveled at the way the alcohol seemed to blow up inside my mouth. Alas, a sip was all I would get. My tastes today, contrary to Rose’s prediction, run to bourbon, but I still love the flavor of Drambuie, the Scotch-based liqueur. It and the bottle bring me back to my childhood home on Norwood Road, and my aunt and uncle’s home on Blackmore Road, where Drambuie was often served. Indeed, the bottle pictured here was purchased by my father.
And it was my father who, many year later, when I was in my early twenties, asked me after a more ordinary weekend meal, if I’d like an after-dinner drink. “How about a Rusty Nail?” he asked.
“What’s a Rusty Nail?” I asked.
This made him happy, and he said, “Let me make you one!”
And so, about a quarter century ago, I had my first Rusty Nail. I loved everything about it, not least of which was the name. What a great name for a cocktail.
As I’m lacking here in Scotch-based cocktails, and thinking of my dad as the holidays approach (well, actually, my dear old dad, gone five years now, is never far from my thoughts), and feeling an urge for a warm, rich cocktail on a chilly Friday evening, home at last after being gone most of the fall, a Rusty Nail it is.
Make it as sweet or dry as you wish. Traditionally it is a 2 to 1 ratio of Scotch to Drambuie, which is how I prefer it. You want to be able to taste the Drambuie. Some prefer it dry, about 4 to 1. This is a matter of taste. Use an Islay-style single-malt and you have a variant, a Smoky Nail. A Rusty Nail can be served neat, but at our house it was always on the rocks.
Happy Friday, all!
Other links you may like:
- My past holiday cocktail posts: the Major Award, Eggnog, and Holiday Glogg.
- A quick peek into the history of the Rusty Nail.
- Learn about the regions of Scotch in Scotland.
- Here are five essential Scotch cocktails from Serious Eats.
© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.
THE RUSTY NAIL
- 2 ounces Scotch
- 1 ounce Drambuie
- 1 twist of lemon
- Combine the Scotch and Drambuie in an old-fashioned glass. Fill it with ice and garnish with a twist.