This Is The Best Scotch For Rusty Nail Cocktails

The Rusty Nail is a cocktail that you may not hear a lot of people ordering up at the bar when you are out with friends, but it's a classic drink with a past to match. Made with scotch and Drambui — an amber colored liqueur with a Scotch-whisky base, according to The Spruce Eats — there are a lot of hands that go up when you ask about the origins of the Rusty Nail. Some say that it came into existence in 1937 for the British Industries Fair trade show, but Paul Taylor, head bartender at Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. told the Whisky Advocate that it's a good story, "However, that cocktail — which was dubbed the B.I.F. — contained bitters." The Rusty Nail does not contain bitters. 

In the 1960s, the famous former prohibition 21 Club in New York City that Grace Kelly references in another classic, Rear Window, added its name to the roll call of possible creators of this sophisticated drink. So no one knows for sure who gets the credit, but we know it had a cool factor. The Rusty Nail is also rumored to have been the drink of choice among the Rat Pack in the 1970s, counting Frank Sinatra as a fan (via But regardless of who invented this simple drink, the most important question it raises is what's the best type of Scotch whisky to use when you make it?

There are a wide variety of scotch preferences

While the Rusty Nail is a simple drink, the taste of this alcoholic beverage relies on the quality of the scotch used to create it. There are quite a few options, but Scotch whisky drinkers in the United States tend to favor Dewar based on the number of bottles that were bought. According to Statista, in 2019, 1.01 million nine-liter cases of Dewar's were sold in the U.S., followed by Johnny Walker Black and Johnny Walker Red. Columbia Room's bartender concurs and told the Whisky Advocate he likes Dewar's 12 year old because of its essence of stone fruit and chocolate or Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend which will give you a mild, smoky taste.

However, Leo de Rivera, head bartender at Red Phone Booth in Atlanta shared with the Whisky Advocate that The Famous Grouse Smoky Black is his preference, noting, "It has extra boldness that stands up distinctly against many other flavors and makes everything pop. It helps bring out the grassy, herbaceous, and floral notes in Drambuie that can get lost behind its honeyed sweetness without losing the flavor of the scotch." 

Several in the Reddit community suggest Black Bottle works well for a rusty nail, while another offered, "Some are of the mindset that you should only use blended whiskey for a rusty nail, but I myself prefer using a more popular single malt like a Glenlivet." Whatever your choice, drink responsibly and enjoy.