How to Make a Rusty Nail
As the days get shorter and the weather turns cooler, my cocktailian thoughts turn toward darker spirits. Out go the gin and rum, and in come the whiskey and brandy. And I start to get more of a taste for after-dinner cocktails. Lately, I've been in the mood for whiskey with a tinge of something sweet. Times like that call for a Rusty Nail.
Given the recent explosion in honey-flavored whiskeys, I'm somewhat surprised Drambuie hasn't come along for the ride. It's certainly had time to build a fan base; Drambuie has been around for over a century. It's a scotch-based liqueur with a distinct flavor from heather honey. Wonder where Drambuie got the odd name? It's a variation on a Scottish Gaelic phrase, an dram buidheach. It means "The drink that satisfies."
In my humble (but correct) opinion, it's still the best honey-flavored spirit out there. It's stronger than most of its modern kin (at 80 proof; the modern crop hovers around 70), and the honey flavor is clear and true. Sure, it's the most expensive honey spirit in the lot. However, it's worth the upgrade.
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The Rusty Nail is a pretty simple matter: Put scotch and Drambuie in a glass over ice, and give it a quick stir to mix everything together. Since it's so simple, it's ripe for variation. Printed recipes give a wide range of ratios, from equal parts of both to a light splash of Drambuie in one's glass of scotch.
What's the proper proportion? There isn't one. There are two factors to consider. First, there's your own personal taste. Like it sweeter or drier? More power to you. Just add a little more Drambuie or scotch, respectively.
Second, the scotch you use plays a big part. The Rusty Nail is usually made with blended scotch; I up the Drambuie on those ones to give the drink a little more character. I know I'm going to offend some purists by saying this, but a Rusty Nail is also excellent when made with a single-malt. I'll cut back the Drambuie (or, more likely, up the scotch) on those so that the scotch has more of a chance to shine.
Oh, a little bit of trivia for you: If you use bourbon instead of scotch, the drink becomes a Rusty Spike. Given the number of honey-flavored whiskeys on the market today, you can certainly substitute one of those if you already have one of those. But if at all possible, give Drambuie a chance.