The Mysterious Origin Of The Rusty Nail Cocktail

The Rusty Nail might not have made it onto The Daily Meal's ultimate list of unappealing cocktail names, but chances are it was a runner up. Like most good cocktails, the back story of the Rusty Nail is murky. reports that the drink is rumored to have been created for the British Industries Fair in 1937. In the subsequent years, Concrete Playground states the cocktail went through a variety of name changes before settling in on its longstanding modern day moniker.

Before diving into how this particular cocktail came to be named after an oxidized fastener, let's breakdown what exactly goes into the 60s era staple. Esquire's official recipe requires 2 ounces of scotch and 1/2 an ounce of Drambuie, mixed and served over ice in an old fashioned glass. Some recipes call for an optional slice of lemon, but the four to one ration is pretty standard. While scotch is a familiar spirit to most, Drambuie is one of those mysterious bottles behind the bar that's often seen but rarely sampled. As it turns out, Drambuie was essential in the creation of the Rusty Nail. The Spruce Eats explains that the scotch based liqueur flavored with herbs and honey was used to soften the bite of Prohibition-era spirits in the States.

Rusty Nail came into conversation via New York's iconic 21 Club

For a while, the cocktail was known as the B.I.F., a nod to the fair where it was allegedly created. Concrete Playground reports that the cocktail fell out of popularity in the UK, only to make its way stateside in the 1950s under the names D&S (Drambuie and Scotch) and the Mig 21, used by US troops stationed in Vietnam (via Gourmantic). says, as the story goes, the Rusty Nail came into conversation via the bartenders at New York's iconic 21 Club in the early 1960s. The bar is responsible for another two ingredient classic, the B&B (Bénédictine and cognac), so there's a good chance that they could have used to the same winning formula for the Rusty Nail. Make Me A Cocktail claims that the drink's name came from a rusty nail being originally used to stir it, but that doesn't really hold up to standards at the swanky 21 Club. The cocktail's name was finally nailed down when the chairwoman of Drambuie gave it the official stamp of approval. As far as its rise to popularity goes, the Rat Pack was known for their love of a well made Rusty Nail, and who could deny the influence they had on American culture?