Learn to Cocktail: Rusty Nail and Rob Roy
Updated: Aug 4
Some things I don't know how to do I am more than happy to let other people do for me. Changing a tire, for example. Other things I don't know how to do and I have big plans to change that. Playing the fiddle, for example. Sewing clothing is another example. And, of course, making killer cocktails.
A few years back, I was having dinner at the ever-lovely Emily Teel's house. I believe it was a Tuesday night and we were eating duck confit that was leftover from her restaurant job and cassoulet. As Emily was cooking and other guests were helping, she casually asked me to make a batch cocktail from the liquor in her cabinet. I played it cool at first. I went over to the cabinet, took stock of the bottles, and then realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just started mixing things that seemed like they went together more or less. She had Art in the Age's Rhubarb and Sage spirits, she had bitters, she had rum... I poured everything together in a shaker, shook hard, spilled half of it out, and tasted my concoction. It was awful. So, so bad. I told everyone that it was not a successful venture. They dismissed my concerns saying, "It can't be that bad!" After they tasted it, we decided to just toss it and give the job to someone else. Emily probably doesn't even remember this, but it was deeply troubling to me. Since that day, I have wanted to hone my cocktailing. And now, with 2016 being the year I create, I think it is time.
Rachel's sister, Nicole, got us a great gift for Christmas this year that spurred on my desire to cocktail. In a beautiful woven basket she put the recipe for two classic drinks and the liquor to concoct them. We started making them right away, and I am pretty happy with the results. Everything we made has been 100% drinkable! Now I am going to share these cocktail successes with you in this Learn to Cocktail mini-series which will be sporadically updated as I attain new cocktail heights.
The first drinks we will look at - the drinks enabled by Rachel's sister's gift to us - are both Scotch-based cocktails.
My dear friend Veronica shared with us her brother-in-law's trick for remembering the liquor needed for a Rusty Nail: If you step on a rusty nail, you will get a skin disease. Skin Disease = SD = Scotch and Drambuie.
Thinking about it now, I'm not sure how good of a mnemonic device that is. It seems like a pretty complicated way to remember two bottles. Furthermore, if you asked me what happens when you step on a rusty nail, I would say, "Puncture Wound," which would lead you to believe a rusty nail is made with Port and Whiskey, and then we are just right back at the beginning with a cocktail that tastes like balls.
Just remember that a Rusty Nail is Scotch and Drambuie.
The Rusty Nail dates back to the early 1930s. It is super simple to make, it has warm flavors of spices and honey (thanks to the Drambuie), and it sounds cool to say. Here is all you need:
In a shaker filled with ice, add the Scotch whiskey and the Drambuie. Stir to chill. Strain into a glass with or without ice, and drink up. Some modern recipes for Rusty Nails have a 1:1 proportion of Scotch to Drambuie, but this sounds too sweet to me. But you do you, friend.
The recipe we received did not specify if you should shake or stir the Rusty Nail, so I was shaking it. Subsequent research has proved that this was the wrong thing to do, but whatever, it was still good. Here is my dear friend Veronica doing it wrong due to my misguidance:
Thank you, Veronica, for showing everyone how not to prepare a Rusty Nail.
So now you have a bottle of Scotch because you were stirring up a mean Rusty Nail. How about we shake it up a little bit? But not literally, because this next cocktail is also meant to be stirred.
The Rob Roy is a classic cocktail that dates back to 1894. Apparently, it was concocted at the bar of Manhattan's Waldorf Astora in honor of an operetta. Thank you, Wikipedia. Here's what you need to call this classic your own:
Same as before: In a shaker filled with ice, add the Scotch whiskey, the sweet vermouth and the bitters. Stir to chill. Strain into a glass and pop in a cherry. Bam. You're damn classy. If you only have dry vermouth, you can definitely substitute that in for the sweet stuff, but omit the cherry. Add a lemon peel instead if you are feeling like you want to break out your vegetable peeler.
Amazing! You just made two fantastic cocktails! We are well on our way to cocktail mastery. In our next segment, we will focus on cocktails made with the next base liquor someone gifts me and Rachel! In the mean time, here is one more photo of Veronica looking smokin'. Cheers!