Drink of the Week: The Rusty Nail

the Rusty Nail.Now that we’re finally just starting to settle down just a bit here at Drink of the Week Plaza, I thought it best to dip my big toe back into the waters of a weekly blog with a drink that is about as simple and easy to make as anything worthy of calling a cocktail.

Now, if you’re looking for an Oscar tie-in, there really isn’t one, except that the characters in “American Hustle” would undoubtedly be familiar with today’s drink, which wasn’t invented in the 1970s but pretty much embodies the spirit of a time when booze was pretty much strictly a means to a sweet end. It’s also not a horrible way to wrap up the trilogy of Scotch-based cocktails we’ve been working on for these last couple posts.

Today, I present you a drink that’s absolutely guaranteed to be more pleasurable than a bout of tetanus.

The Rusty Nail

2 1/2 ounces Scotch whiskey
1/2 ounce Drambuie
1 lemon twist (optional but desirable garnish)

Get a rocks glass and fill it with ice. Add  Drambuie — a reasonably tasty and unreasonably expensive Scotch-based liqueur — and then add some Scotch. Maybe throw on a lemon twist. Toast whomever the hell you please because this drink is perfect for people too busy to toast.

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In terms of ingredients and how to mix them, there are three big questions with the Rusty Nail. One is the brand of Scotch. David Wondrich tells us, not surprisingly, blended Scotches like your dad and grandpa drank are best for a Rusty Nail.  We’re talking Johnny Walker, Cutty Sark, Dewar’s and the like. I actually tried a very good single malt and my mouth instantly knew that something was amiss. Too much smoke, too much fire.

The next question is your proportion of Drambuie to Scotch. While I have a sweet tooth, I find using equal parts Scotch and Drambuie — as many older recipes have it — way, way, way too sweet. Even Wondrich’s 1/2 to 2 seemed a bit sweeter to me than I would prefer. Moreover, the boozy guru’s demand that we mix, instead of layering in, the ingredients wasn’t really working for me either. That, by the way, indicates the third big question of the Rusy Nail.

At that point, I found inspiration in my new neighborhood, or technically the next neighborhood over, as I visited a very accomplished 1970s boozery and eatery with surprisingly great food. I speak of Studio City’s the Oyster House — home of, among other tasty 1970s-esque delicacies, very delish oyster shooters, six for $6.00. Bartender Greg (at least I think it was Greg) made me a drink that was, I’m guessing, 1/2 to 2 1/2, in which he poured the Drambuie first and some Dewar’s White Label second. The result was pretty lovely, with the Drambuie at the bottom of the drink acting like a dessert t following the bracing, icy Scotch.  I went home and tried the same thing but with Grant’s, and the results were just about as good.

So what have we learned today? Well, I’m learning my new neighborhood has more than one great hangout in it. That’s lesson enough.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Rob Roy

The Rob RoyFor the second week in a row, I’m revisiting classic variations of classic cocktails that have been mentioned here before but not fully explored. Though supposedly created by an anonymous bartender at New York’s Waldorf Hotel and named for the legendary hero of Scottish folklore, the Rob Roy is a pretty clear case of cocktail plagiarism at its finest. All it really is the Manhattan but made with Scotch rather than with rye, bourbon, or Canadian whisky. Still, as I noted in the second edition of DOTW, a Manhattan is really just a martini made with whiskey and capitalizing on the natural sweetness of rye, bourbon and Canadian whiskey, as opposed to the dry tang of modern day gin.

I also said at the time that I hadn’t figured out yet how to make a Rob Roy taste any good. It did take some time to revisit some recipes and experiment a bit with the more smokey and biting flavor of the Scottish brew in comparison to the sweeter rye and the almost-candy-like-in-comparison bourbon. Here’s the trick as I see it right now: We still use bitters, but we use them more sparingly.

The Rob Roy

2 ounces Scotch whisky
1/2-1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters (angostura or orange)
maraschino cherry or lemon peel (garnish)

Add Scotch, vermouth, and bitters — using a light hand on the bitters — in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake most vigorously and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail class and sip, preferably while pouring over a volume of Robert Burns’ poetry.

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It’s true that the best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, and the hole in my plans was that I ran out of my beloved dry Noilly Pratt and forgot to try the dry version of the Rob Roy, which appears to be more popular than the less frequently discussed dry Manhattan. Both drinks simply use dry vermouth in place of the sweet variety and, traditionally, change the garnish from the cherry to a lemon peel or, if you’re me, an olive. If so, I would be extra careful with using Angostura bitters especially as Scotch is already a relatively harsh brew compared to North American whiskeys.

In general, though, to reiterate, the major distinction I would make between the Rob Roy and the Manhattan is that I strongly counsel being stingy with bitters on a Rob Roy, while I counsel greater generosity with them on Manhattans. Scotch is a pretty tough form of booze all on its own.

  

Everyone loves Johnnie Walker Scotch

The gang at Johnnie Walker was kind enough to send us some samples of each of the scotch bottles above. Needless to say, productivity at Bullz-Eye headquarters immediately plummeted.

It did, however, give us another great idea for a Father’s day gift. Booze may not be the most creative gift, but it’s usually a winner with most fathers, particularly when it involves great Scotch.

You see above that you can choose among five different “labels” for Johnnie Walker, each with a different color. Check out the web site and you can choose the best one for you or the lucky gift recipient. After extensive taste testing, we’re partial to Johnnie Walker Black Label and Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Two hundred years in the making, Black Label is the signature blend from the House of Walker. Big whisky flavors with hints of rich fruit and smoke make this Scotch whisky the perfect gift for the father who stands strong as the cornerstone of his family. You can’t lose with this one, and at a retail price of around $34 it won’t break the bank.

If you’re looking to spend a tad bit more, try the Blue Label which runs around $220. This is the rarest, most exceptional whisky from Johnnie Walker, and it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a more memorable gift. Just make sure you’re around when he opens the damn thing!

  

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