The Perfect Rusty Nail

In a continued attempt to increase traffic to my blog, I am introducing an irregular series of boozy posts, mostly containing my thoughts about and the recipes for my favourite cocktails. As promised after my instructions on how to construct the perfect Martini, today we look at that rather more modern Rusty Nail.

Born out of the desperation that was the 1950s, the Rusty Nail is just old enough to have gained a certain respectability, unlike some of the more gaudy creations of the next two decades. History is silent on just exactly who first mixed one, or indeed who coined the name, but the ingredients couldn't be simpler - just good Scotch Whisky,* Drambuie whisky liqueur and a twist of lemon peel - the art comes in the mixing, and in the ratio.

Though some, including Drambuie's own, opt for equal measures, most recipes call for two parts whisky to one part Drambuie, and most tell you to pour the ingredients over ice, then stir thoroughly and finally garnish with the lemon. This makes for a perfectly good Rusty Nail, and were I not the kind-hearted fellow I am, I might just leave it at that. But there is more to cocktails than simply following the herd. Different whiskies have different flavours and strengths and these will affect the final mix.

A quality blend like Black Bottle, with its high proportion of Islay malts in the mix, can stand on its own, so needs less Drambuie to make a satisfying cocktail. Use a cheap supermarket blend, however, and you'll find all sorts of nasty after-tastes spoiling things unless you sweeten up the mixture. It's rarely worth using a single malt to make a Rusty Nail, as the subtle flavours are lost in the sweetness of the liqueur

And that's the problem with a Rusty Nail. Go a little too heavy on the Drambuie and you end up with something sickly sweet. So it's better to go for the quality blended whisky and keep the ratio nearer three to one.

Then there's the ice argument. A Rusty Nail is an after dinner drink. A digestif. My father has a theory, picked up from something he read no doubt, that one of the great ills in the world is the chilled drink. It leads to all manner of internal complaints and is, apparently, the reason why Americans are all so fat.** So cold drinks are a bad thing. And there is an argument that says a Rusty Nail served without ice is by far the superior drink. I have, in my travels, come across a few people who try to tell you that this is the correct way to make the drink. Try it for yourself, if you're feeling adventurous. It's different, and you have to seriously reduce the amount of Drambuie used unless you like things sugary and thick.

Personally, I favour ice, and I'm willing to risk obesity to indulge myself from time to time. But if you must make one without, then first rub the inside of the glass with the lemon peel, dropping it into the glass when you've finished. Pour in the whisky first, float the Drambuie on top, and give it the gentlest of swirls, so you can see the two liquids intermingled but not quite mixed.

But what, you say is the Perfect Rusty Nail? Well, for that you need something rather special. Instead of Drambuie, you must get your hands on some of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Single Cask Island Liqueur. And the only way you can do that is if you know someone who is a member. Or I guess you could become a member yourself. It's certainly worth a try if you like rare malts, and it just so happens that the Horse Doctor can access the society shop, having kept up her subscription after I gave her membership for her birthday a few years ago.

Having acquired some of this liquid gold, you must then take yourself an old fashioned glass, fill it with broken ice, and pour a couple of measures of a good blended whisky on top - again I will recommend Black Bottle, though you can use Famous Grouse at a pinch. It's really not worth wasting a single cask malt from the society on a cocktail, no matter how extravagant you're feeling.

Next float a single measure of the liqueur on top of the ice and whisky. Give the whole thing a gentle stir, as per the iceless version, and garnish with a slice of lemon peel, twisted over the drink to release the aromatic oils.

Sit back and enjoy, in front of a roaring fire and accompanied by a good book.

There you are. Perfection.

* note that the adjective Scotch can only be used to describe something you can eat, something you can drink or something you can mend your underpants with. It can never be used to describe a person, however much his beard threatens you.
** this is my father's opinion, I only report it here, not agree with it.


Stuart MacBride said…
I favour Glayva over Drambuie, personally. Not quite so sickly.

A rusty nail is the perfect way of getting rid of the odd bottle of Talisker (if someone buys it for your Christmas, not realising you think it tastes like burning creosote)
JamesO said…
Let me know the next time someone does that, Mr Stuart. I'll swap it with you for a bottle of Black Bottle;}#
Stuart MacBride said…
Make it a bottle of Bowmore and you've got yourself a deal.

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