Cocktail Chatter: The Rusty Nail

By Ed Sikov

I'm still on a chestnut-colored drink kick, long past the restoration of power after Hurricane Sandy made it possible for us to drink cocktails on the rocks again. Dan and I had been forced by circumstance to imbibe our drinks neat; we had no choice, given that we had no ice. (Nor electricity, nor running water.) Since vodka and gin tend to lose a little something when served at room temperature, we'd stuck with Scotch, Jameson Irish whiskey and finally cognac as we grew increasingly filthy and piggish in our safe, dry, but hygiene-compromised apartment. It's

just as well nobody climbed the 12 flights of emergency-exit stairs to visit us during our confinement. We'd have sent them reeling with our reek (unless of course they were into piggy stuff, in which case we'd have been fragrant sexual superstars).

In any case, once we were able to shower, shave and shop, I brought back to the apartment a bottle of Chivas Regal and a bottle of Drambuie, a liqueur made from Scotch. Drambuie has a sweetish, resinous quality to it. It's unctuous in the best sense of the word. But a little goes a long way, which is why the Rusty Nail is such a delightful cocktail. You get the best of Scotch - peaty, smoky, and strong - and the best of a good complementary liqueur all in one wee glass. Or not so wee, as the case may be.

Rusty Nails are a 9 to 5 drink, meaning not the raucous Dolly Parton song of that name but the proportions: 9 parts Scotch to 5 parts Drambuie, or so a popular website advises. Oh, gimme a friggin' break! Who on earth either mixes such a vast Rusty Nail or calculates the math for a normal-size cocktail? For you sticklers out there, that's 1.8 parts Scotch to 1 part Drambuie. Phooey!

To top it all off, this inane proportion makes a far too cloying cocktail. If you want to sip a bonnie Drambuie, do. But if you want a good Rusty Nail, I advise a smaller proportion of liqueur to Scotch. In fact, I make my Rusty Nails by pouring a healthy amount of Scotch into a glass full of ice (or, if you're making a round for a crowd, into an icy cocktail shaker) and adding just a thimble full of Drambuie for each drink.

One of the side benefits of the Rusty Nail is that you don't need to invest in a top shelf Scotch. Let's face it: You're adulterating the Scotch by adding a liqueur, albeit one made of Scotch. So there's no reason at all to splurge on a fine single malt only to kill its well-crafted flavor notes with a foreign substance, however delicious that substance may be. I chose Chivas, because I didn't plan to use the whole bottle on Rusty Nails. But if I were you, I'd just as soon go with a good, drinkable blended Scotch like Ballantine.

The Rusty Nail (classic version)

1.8 parts blended Scotch

1 part Drambuie

The Rusty Nail (my variation)

2 parts Scotch

1/4 part Drambuie

Pour both ingredients into either a glass full of ice and stir; or, for a crowd, pour the contents into a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake, then decant into Martini glasses.

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