• Weekly Cocktail #38: The Rusty Nail


    The Rusty Nail. Up.

    The rain is coming down in sheets, the wind is howling and it’s cold (at least for the Bay Area). Time to light a fire, relax, play some cards or read a good book. But what cocktail to have? This would be a good time for a toddy or old fashioned, maybe a Manhattan. But this is also a perfect time to break out that bottle of Drambuie gathering dust in the back of your bar, grab some blended Scotch and make the almost-forgotten classic, the Rusty Nail.


    The Rusty Nail. On the rocks.

    The Rusty Nail combines blended Scotch, Drambuie and (sometimes) a lemon twist. It it one of the easiest cocktails to make and is served up or on the rocks. The only issue with the Rusty Nail is getting the Drambuie if you don’t already have some hiding away. Drambuie is one of the few Scotch-based liqueurs and it tastes like sweetened Scotch with notes of honey, heather, citrus and spice. Drambuie doesn’t always play well with other spirits, but it does go well with Scotch. The honey and citrus soften the hard, smokey edges of Scotch and make it sippable. To some degree, in the Rusty Nail the Drambuie modifies the Scotch in a similar way to dry vermouth with gin in the Martini, or sweet vermouth with whiskey in a Manhattan. The base spirit still leads the drink, but no longer punches you in the face. Kinder, gentler booze.

    nail5As noted, the Rusty Nail is very easy to make. The only question is the ratios. Some recipes suggest equal portions of blended Scotch and Drambuie, some 2 to 1 and some 4 to 1. We like a 4 to 1, but it will depend on your tastes and the Scotch you use. The cool thing is that you can just add more Scotch or Drambuie as needed. Some recipes also suggest using a single-malt Scotch for the Rusty Nail, and while it’s very good, we will save our single-malts to serve on their own or in toddies. And finally, some recipes use a lemon twist, some don’t. We like a touch of citrus in most drinks and this is no exception. The aroma of the lemon with the Scotch adds an extra dimension.

    nail2And then you have the history of the Rusty Nail. As Drambuie is only about 100 years old, the Rusty Nail is a somewhat recent creation. Drambuie and Scotch cocktails started showing up in the 1930s with various names. Cocktail historian David Wondrich mentions several names for this drink including the “B.I.F.” and, even better, the “Knucklehead”. We kind of like Knucklehead (having sometimes behaved like one). But, not surprisingly, the marketing folks at Drambuie backed the “Rusty Nail” and the name stuck. And the Rusty Nail was a very popular cocktail from the 1950s to the 1970s, but then its popularity faded as darker spirits lost favor.

    nailNowadays the Rusty Nail is having something of a comeback. Craft and classic cocktail bars are serving the Rusty Nail (or variations) and Drambuie started to market itself, and its classic cocktail, to new audiences. Drambuie still isn’t cheap, but if you like whiskey, particularly Scotch, it is worth finding. And if you are looking for a strong, sweet and boozy (but not too boozy) sip, the Rusty Nail is a very good choice and a welcome diversion from old fashioneds and Manhattans.

    The Rusty Nail:


    • 2 oz. blended Scotch (the Famous Grouse)
    • 1/2 oz. Drambuie
    • Lemon twist


    1. Add the Scotch and Drambuie to a cocktail glass with some ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into an old fashioned glass with ice, or strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Twist the lemon peel over the drink, add the peel to the cocktail and serve.
  • Miso Cod Hand Rolls

    Miso Cod Hand Rolls

    One of our favorite all-time restaurant dishes is Nobu Matsuhisa’s Black Cod with Miso, a simple but delectable appetizer that has been knocked off (and with some success) by chefs and home cooks all over the world. If you visit one of the Nobu restaurants, you should order the dish, it is still excellent. The delicate, sweet and flaky cod with a light crust of funky, salty, umami-rich miso is a perfectly balanced bite.

    Matsuhisa’s version of the dish uses black cod and marinates the fish for 2-3 days. And while we know it’s great, it is hard for even food bloggers to plan that far ahead, and we don’t have easy access to black cod. We also needed to beef up the dish a bit to be a main course. But since we have very tasty local rock cod here in Norcal, and we make lots of sushi and/or coconut rice, we adapted a quick version of miso cod (from Food and Wine) for use in rice bowls or hand rolls. And what we get is a very flavorful, easy and healthy meal. The kids even like it (hand rolls are fun).

    And making this dish is very easy, the only variable is time. It only takes a few minutes to mix a marinade of white “shiro” miso, mirin (Japanese cooking wine), sake and sugar. Then you marinate the fish. A half hour marinade time does work, but a full day or overnight is even better. The longer the marinate, the deeper and sweeter the miso flavor. Otherwise, simply make some white rice (we like Japanese medium-grain rice), cut up some nori, dice some veggies like carrots, radish and arugula, saute some shiitake mushrooms, slice up an avocado and break out the pickled ginger, soy sauce and Sriracha.

    We serve the cod two ways. The first is a simple bowl with the rice topped with miso cod, mushrooms, avocado, veggies and slivers of nori. But the real fun is making the hand-rolls.  Just cut the nori sheets into 2×2 inch squares, add in a tablespoon of cooked rice and then layer in the fish and other garnishes. The hand rolls make for a perfect bite. These are great as dinner, but also fun to serve as a snack at parties. But be sure to enjoy a hand roll before you share them, these tend to go fast.

    Continue reading