Back in the Eighties, when big hair and shoulder pads ruled supreme, as did Ronald Reagan in all his numbingly myopic splendor, I tried my first Rusty Nail. My friend Kristen waitressed at The Annex, a local basement haunt that fed and kept mirthful the hoards of Princetonians and townsfolk who hankered for a cheap drink and some cheap eats. Steak Diane was on their menu and it was the best bet, along with your typical strains of Manhattans, Martinis, and Whiskey Sours. I knew I liked bourbon - I got very drunk one night with a few friends, taking shots of Jim Beam- and Whiskey Sours were my go-to cocktail. They were sweet and sour, and they suited my taste buds just fine. Or so I thought.
Kristen suggested I try a Rusty Nail when I asked for some cocktail advice one night when she was off-duty and I should have been off writing another boring lit-crit paper. "What's in it?" "Scotch and Drambuie." At this point on my spirituous journey, I knew that scotch tasted different than bourbon. I didn't know what gave them their unique tastes, but I knew I liked bourbon more. "What the hell is Drambuie?" "Sweet scotch." "Okay, I'll give it a try."
I remember the first sip like it was yesterday. The scotch was fine - like I've said, I've sipped on scotch before and liked it just up to a point. If that's all there is, I'll drink it. But this time it was different. I really took a shine to Drambuie. I found out later what it actually is: a Scottish honey- and herb-flavored liqueur made from aged malt whisky, heather honey, and naturally, a secret blend of herbs and spices. I noted while sipping how it played with the scotch, smoothing out its rough edges.
Twenty years or so later, I find myself sipping on Rusty Nails when I'm in the mood for something potent, peaty-sweet, and old-school. There's nothing like one on a cool fall evening, perhaps in front of the first fire of the season, capping the night off with some friends with whom you've just shared a hearty meal.
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)
Stir in ice for 30 seconds and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
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Photo (c) Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz