Archivist Build: Rusty Nail

Updated: Sep 25, 2020


Context, Notes, History:

Somewhere between the 1930s and the 1960s this simple combination of scotch and Drambuie found its shape, falling squarely under the umbrella of minimal effort cocktails - splash of this, splash of that; pour it over that ice there (already in your glass); give it a quick finger stir. Presto-chango: you’re making classy drinks. This cocktail-on-the-quick was a rumored staple of the“Rat Pack” during the '60s. The original recipe, 1937 British Industries Fair (B.I.F.), likely contained an extra touch - bitters - though most classic recipes omit it. During the cocktail's heyday, blended scotch was also king. So you can imagine a fairly balanced profile. Lots of red flags for my prefered aesthetic - no bitters, overly balanced (neutral) base spirits, heavier ratio of liqueurs.


Archival Mods:

Current Drambuie leans a little sweet for me, so my first mod was to swap out for some 1970s Drambuie which brings a higher spice ratio to the party. It's also not as sludgy on the palate. Then I’m going to drop it from ¾ oz to ½ oz and make up that ¼ oz with some 1960s Strega. The vintage Strega is almost clear (a far cry from the current neon yellow product), but the saffron flavor is cranked way up. Like the Drambuie, it isn’t nearly as syrupy as its contemporary counterpart. The two liqueurs really help this cocktail dig deep mid-palate and transition perfectly into the Cynar. Speaking of which, I’m favoring the B.I.F. recipe in getting bitters involved. One vial of Peychaud’s (I love licorice notes with scotch) and ¼ oz Cynar. The backend totally needs the bitters. This thing is going to start out rich and malty with the Passport and then dig sweet with the sherried Caol Ila, before diving straight into the honeyed Drambuie notes. So we need to dry it out, tidy it up. The Cynar is the bridge from that sweet-mid into the Peychaud’s. The structural backbone here is an almost 120 proof G&M Caol Ila - massive, young Islay, blasting smoked meats and jammy red fruit. The peat ash synchs up nicely with the bitter chocolate from the Cynar, providing a seamless transition into the finish where the saffron proves its staying power. Lemon expressions can totally take over a drink, so I skipped it here in favor of atomizing two “mistos” of absinthe, looping nose into the Peychaud’s on finish.


I usually try to under-cook this by a hair so that it drinks a touch heavy and sweet for the first sip or two. It's a small price to pay for how it evolves with natural dilution (over a big rock) - the saffron notes get brighter and the sherry influence moves to the foreground. If you over-cook it, you'll be bright and balanced up front, but move to watery and thin real quick.


Home Hack:

Finally, if I want to do a contemporary hack on the Archivist Build, I look for an unpeated scotch in a 2:1 ratio with a peated scotch. Bonus points if either malt has sherry influence or if you get find a younger Islay at a higher proof. I’m going to leave the Drambuie at ½ oz, but to compensate for the simpler, sweeter contemporary version, I’ll dry it out with a ¼ oz Becherovka. The Bechy also fills in some of the more interesting spice notes that we lost after 86ing the vintage Strega.




Recipes:


B.I.F. (1937):

1 ½ oz Blended Scotch

¾ oz Drambuie

1-2 dashes Bitters

Stir. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Express lemon.


Classic (by 1960s):

1 ½ oz Blended Scotch

¾ oz Drambuie

Stir. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Express lemon.


Archivist Build:

1 oz 1980s Passport Blended Scotch - 40%

½ oz 2007 Caol Ila 10 yr. (re-fill sherry hogshead) - 59%

½ oz 1970s Drambuie

¼ oz 1960s Strega

¼ oz Cynar

1 vial Peychaud’s

Medium stir. Strain into a rocks glass over ice.

2 mistos (sprays) Absinthe.


Home Hack:

1 oz BenRiach 10 yr.

½ oz Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 yr.

½ oz Drambuie

¼ oz Becherovka

¼ oz Cynar

1 vial Peychaud’s

Medium stir. Strain into a rocks glass over ice.

2 mistos (sprays) Absinthe.


Sources: Whisky Advocate

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