According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, “the Rusty Nail took a while to find its proper place in the world.” The combination of Drambuie—”the world’s most distinguished Scotch-based liqueur”—and the whisky it is made from first appears in 1937 in the form of the B.I.F., credited to one F. Benniman and ostensibly named after the British Industries Fair. Wondrich goes on to note that “it took another generation or so for the drink to assume its classic name and form, during which time it tried on several identities. Here it’s a D&S…there a Little Club No. 1 (the Little Club being a rather swank sort of joint on East Fifty-fifth Street much haunted by showbiz types); at USAF Officers’ Clubs in Thailand and the Republic of Viet-Nam, it’s a Mig-21, while in the upper Midwest it’s a Knucklehead.”
The cocktail authority Dale DeGroff notes, “the Rusty Nail is often credited to the clever bartenders at the 21 Club in Manhattan sometime in the early 1960s.” The cocktail’s name was finally cemented in 1963, when Gina MacKinnon, the chairwoman of the Drambuie Liqueur Company, gave the Rusty Nail her endorsement in The New York Times. DeGroff observes that in the early 1960s “the Rat Pack was enamored of the drink, which may have been responsible for the wide appeal in those years.”
2 ounces whiskey — Scotch
1/2 ounce Drambuie
Combine the Scotch* and Drambuie in a double Old-Fashioned glass, add lots of ice, and stir. The quantities here are a rough ratio. Half and half is too sweet for us, but some folks swear by it. We suggest you start with 2 ounces Scotch and 1/2 ounce Drambuie and work your way up from there (or, of course, stop). There are those who insist on layering the ingredients. Nah.
* Blended Scotch is traditional, but use a good one. Johnny Walker Black, Dewar’s 12, like that.