Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail

Mix up some Scotch whisky and Drambuie liqueur and blow your friends’ minds with a rich, silky Rusty Nail Cocktail.

Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail

The Rusty Nail Cocktail is simple yet fascinating (kinda like me haha!) with a unique flavor: smooth meets sweet, smoky meets herbal. It’s the cocktail you want to in your hands on those nights when you just want to relax but looks just as good by your side when, dressed in your sophisticated best, you’re out with your friends at your favorite lounge.

The Rusty Nail doesn’t have a monopoly on these evenings though. Swap it out occasionally with a Sazerac cocktail and you’re in for a different kind of thrill. It’s not a total departure as both are whisky-based drinks mixed with a mellow sweetness.

Or maybe you’re more familiar with the Rusty Nail’s other cousin, the Rob Roy. It’s another simple cocktail that’s been around for years. Add some sweet vermouth and bitters to your favorite Scotch and you’re good to go.

I love these drinks because they’re simple. They don’t need something resembling a chemistry set to make and yet no one will ever accuse you of being a lazy bartender! These are classics for a reason.

Why You Will Love This Cocktail Recipe

  • The list of ingredients is short and readily available. You shouldn’t have any problems procuring scotch and Drambuie
  • There is a wide variety of scotches, which means you can have fun mixing it up to find one that you like best.
  • The scotch serves as a solid yet smooth base, while the Drambuie brings the sweetness. It’s a simple but amazing combination that will make a Rusty Nail a favorite for years to come.
Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail
Servings 1
3 minutes


  • A mixing glass or cocktail shaker
  • Jigger (to measure Scotch whisky and Drambuie liqueur)
  • A spoon (to mix the ingredients)
  • A strainer
  • A rocks glass
  • A fruit peeler


  • 1 1/2 oz Scotch whisky
  • 3/4 oz Drambuie liqueur
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: Lemon twist or orange twist


  • Begin by filling a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the Scotch whisky and Drambuie liqueur to the glass.
  • Gently stir the mixture for about 20-30 seconds to ensure proper blending and chilling of the ingredients.
  • Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass that is full of fresh ice cubes.
  • Complete your cocktail by garnishing it with a twist of lemon or orange. Take a strip of lemon or orange peel, twist it over the glass to release the fragrant oils, and drop it into the cocktail for an enticing aroma.


How many calories are in a Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail?

The Rusty Nail runs about 180-200 calories, assuming you make it with 1 1/2 oz. of scotch whisky and a 3/4 oz. of Drambuie. If that’s too much for your diet, lighten the scotch.

How should I drink a Rusty Nail?

A good Rusty Nail deserves to be nursed slowly, which is exactly what I do. I reserve a good chunk of time to bask in the subtle flavors, the warmth, and that irresistible aroma. My advice? As the sun falls, concoct this cocktail, then kick off your shoes and crash in your favorite chair.

Can I make a non-alcoholic version of the Rusty Nail?

The short answer is no, there really isn’t a non-alcoholic counterpart, but you can make something approaching a Rusty Nail. Trade out the scotch for a non-alcoholic whiskey alternative and swap the Drambuie for a blend of herbal teas, honey syrup, and a dash of bitters. The ratio I’ll leave to you.

Is the Rusty Nail gluten-free?

While scotch is distilled from gluten-rich barley, most of the gluten gets lost in the distillation process. So it really depends on just how intolerant you are of gluten. If gluten and you really don’t get along, consult your doctor or find a gluten-free alternative.

Can I use a different type of whisky for the Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail?

There’s no rule that says you can’t use bourbon, rye, or Irish whiskey. Each will bring its own unique personality so go ahead, do some taste-testing, and find your own version of the perfect Rusty Nail.

Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail


All right, so you love the Rusty Nail, right? But, ever thought of shaking things up a bit (not literally, but we’ll get to that)? Here are some killer variations to make that classic drink even more groovy.

Healthier Low-Carb Rusty Nail: If you’re watching those carbs, switch up that sugar-filled Drambuie liqueur with some honey or agave syrup seasoned with a few dashes of your go-to bitters. Stir it up with your fave scotch whisky and boom – same amazing taste, fewer carbs!

Rusty Nail with a Bourbon Twist: Substitute the scotch with bourbon to create a Rusty Nail with a dash of sweetness and a hint of vanilla.

Rusty Screwdriver: For added zing, use fresh orange juice. It packs a citrusy punch and works well with the smoky scotch and the sweet Drambuie.

Spiced Rusty Nail: Infuse your scotch with some whole cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. I like snuggling up with this drink in my hands when the nights get colder.

Tips & Tricks

Choose Your Whisky Wisely: Because scotch serves as the base of a Rusty Nail, I wouldn’t compromise when it comes to picking a good one. But don’t think that the more you spend on a scotch, the better it will be. It’s more about which ones you find the tastiest. Go for quality blended or single malt scotch with a taste you love.

Control the Sweetness: I like my Rusty Nails on the slightly sweeter side so I add more Drambuie. If you want a stronger kick, up the scotch.

Stir, Don’t Shake: A Rusty Nail shouldn’t be shaken; you’ll dilute your drink and make it cloudy. Stir it gently, let it chill, and you’re good to go.

Use Fresh Ice: The ice is often overlooked but it plays a vital role in the making of your cocktail. That’s why you should always use fresh ice. Nothing stale, nothing half-melted. And remember to use fresh ice in your glass so you don’t get any of the diluted stuff in your drink.

Nail the Garnish: Add a simple twist of lemon or orange peel for that perfect presentation and a hint of citrus. Just twist it over the glass letting the oils sprinkle into the drink, then rub the peel around the rim before dropping it in.

Classic Rusty Nail Cocktail

How to Store a Rusty Nail

To make a batch of Rusty Nails ahead of time, mix the Scotch and Drambuie in a bottle or airtight container. Hold off adding the ice and garnish until right before serving. When it comes time to serve, I pour the pre-made Rusty Nail into a mixing glass or shaker filled with ice and give it a gentle stir. Then I strain it into a glass with fresh ice and add the garnish.

If you still have some left over, store your mixed drink in a cool, dark spot like a cupboard or liquor cabinet. You can also stick it in the fridge, but make sure to take it out a bit before serving to avoid a syrupy mess. The mix should last for a couple of months, just so long as the container is tightly sealed.

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