Here is a drink that produces an image of a hard-nosed cocktail that will put hair on your chest. Even the word “cocktail” doesn’t seem to go with the Rusty Nail. The drink hearkens back to the day when men were men and dogs slept in the garage. After a hard day of work, the man of the house needed a hard drink, not one of those pink fruity drinks in a prissy martini glass. Jump forward 50 years and you have guys who sip Cosmopolitans and make goofy faces when they drink a shot of tequila, even though they have some salt and lime (lemon) to cover up the flavour. Hell, even flavourless vodka makes people squirm.
As usual, I was determined to write an article about something, but with the typical “writer’s block” I decided to open up Difford’s Guide and write about a cocktail. I wanted something non-fruity and strong. I wanted something that would warm me up and make me think about what I was drinking. I thought an Old Fashioned might fit the bill because a guest once asked for a drink that would be “sailor humping strong”. The Old Fashioned seemed to work for him. Then I thought a Sazerac would be even better, or maybe a Manhattan, but those didn’t appear to be hitting the mark because they are in my regular drink rotation.
As I flipped through the pages of Difford’s Guide to Cocktails, I hit the Rusty Nail and that was what I was going to drink. It’s a good strong drink, with lots of flavours and a subtle sweetness. Plus it’s exceptionally simple to make. The only items required were a bottle of scotch, some scotch liqueur like Drambuie or Lochan Ora and some good ice. Some people add a cherry to their Rusty Nail, but I forgo that. A lemon twist works if you have a lemon hanging around.
2 oz Scotch
1 oz Drambuie
Build on ice in rocks or old fashion glass.
When you take the first sip of your Rusty Nail, your palate will be hit with lots of scotch flavours, like smokey peat and malt which is quickly followed by the sweetness of the scotch liqueur. In this case, I used Lochan Ora, which I find to be better than Drambuie, but it is becoming harder to find. The finish is slightly sweet and then fades to a smokey residue.
For scotch, I used Macallan 10-year-old single malt, which is modestly priced. I can already hear a few people grumbling about using a precious single malt and violating it with honeyed scotch liqueur. Well, better ingredients make for a better drink and even though a blended scotch would work fine, I find the Macallan to be a less robust scotch than say an Islay malt which would be an edgy drink. A Macallan based Rusty Nail isn’t as edgy as it gets with this drink; you always need to leave a little room at the top.
The Rusty Nail is one of those odd drinks that new drinkers think they’ll like but don’t. The idea of sweetened scotch may be appealing, but unlike other drinks where the sugar takes the edge off of the alcohol, the sweetness in a Rusty Nail gives the drink a sharper edge.