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The Rusty Nail Is The Only Cocktail Recipe You Need This Thanksgiving

Rusty Nail Cocktail

Thanksgiving is almost here. One more weekend and then — BAM! — Turkey Day. Since I’m the cook for my family that means about three solid days of prep and cooking. What can I say? I do it right! So if I want to make a cocktail to numb the pain of being on my feet for hours on end, I want a cocktail that’s easy to mix and delicious.

Speed is the name of the game as much as ease when you’re making cocktails around Thanksgiving. And while seasonal-this or spiced-that cocktails are fun, they’re not necessarily easy to make (or source ingredients for). So let’s make this super easy. Let’s make this a two-ingredient killer.

I’m making Rusty Nails this Thanksgiving. And I think you should too.

First and foremost, the Rusty Nail is a stone-cold classic dating back about 100 years. The cocktail gained traction in the late 1950s leading into the Rat Pack peak era of the early 1960s. It was huge in New Orleans and New York’s cocktail scene in that era. Then it almost disappeared entirely. Well, now it’s back and still freaking delicious thanks to a lush and texturally elevating addition of honey liqueur scotch (Drambuie).

The best part of this cocktail is that it is very easy to mix. You just need to stir two quality scotchy ingredients together and add a little lemon oil and you’re all set. Sound good? Let’s get stirring!

Also Read: The Top Five Cocktail Recipes of the Last Six Months

Rusty Nail

Rusty Nail
Zach Johnston


  • 1.5 oz. unpeated single malt Scotch whisky
  • 0.75 oz. Drambuie
  • Ice
  • Large ice cube
  • Lemon peel

The one crucial ingredient you’ll need is Drambuie. Honey liqueur and Scotch whisky have been together for hundreds of years because, well, it tastes great. The modern version uses herbs, spices, and heather honey infused with Scotch whisky. On its own, it’s a nice sipper with a very creamy honey edge. In this cocktail, it’s essential.

When it comes to the Scotch whisky to use, I like to lean toward unpeated single malt. The Balvenie Double Wood 12-Year has this hint of heather honey and barrel spice that just works with this cocktail. If you want a hint of peated smoke, I’d stick with the Isle of Skye (where Drambuie is made) and mix this with a Talisker 10.

Rusty Nail
Zach Johnston

What You’ll Need:

  • Rocks glass (prechilled)
  • Cocktail mixing glass
  • Cocktail strainer
  • Jigger
  • Barspoon
  • Paring knife
Rusty Nail
Zach Johnston


  • Prechill the rocks glass in the freezer.
  • Add the scotch and Drambuie to the cocktail mixing glass. Add a handful of ice and then mix the cocktail until it’s very well-chilled (about 20-30 seconds of stirring).
  • Add a large ice cube to the prechilled glass and then strain the cocktail into the glass.
  • Express the oils from the lemon peel over the cocktail and drop it in the glass. Serve.

Bottom Line on the Rusty Nail:

Rusty Nail
Zach Johnston

This is one of those cocktails where you walk into a bar on a cold rainy day and say, “You know what? I’m in the mood for a Rusty Nail…” and then you drink too many of them. This is a really tasty cocktail, folks. The honey gives the single malt this creamy and ultra-silky mouthfeel that’s full and soft.

The spices of the Drambuie and the Double Wood The Balvenie marry wonderfully on the palate with a deep layer of winter spice barks and a hint of mint over vanilla with a malty winter spice cake vibe.

This is just really good. Better still, it takes all of 30 seconds to make. You cannot beat that on a busy and tiring Thanksgiving week. Sláinte!