[Photo: Jennifer Hess]

It may not be as powerful as a flu shot or have the healing properties of the antibiotic it’s named for, but the Penicillin Cocktail is a surefire cure for a chilly autumn night. Originally created by New York bartender Sam Ross, the Penicillin Cocktail takes the warming, soothing flavors of honey, lemon juice and fresh ginger, and fortifies them with a good dose of scotch whisky. And as if that isn’t enough, the drink is topped with a thin pour of headily aromatic Islay malt, which gives the drink a fragrance as alluring as any woodsmoke-laced autumn breeze.

Other bartenders have taken Ross’s formula and adapted it for drinks made with tequila, gin, and rum, all with great results, but the Scotch-based original is always a good place to start. And one note on the preparation: the original drink uses a house-made ginger-honey syrup; since the spark of fresh ginger fades so quickly, home mixologists may be better served by simply muddling a few slices of fresh ginger in the drink, rather than mixing a batch of syrup that will likely lose its luster before the bottle is half gone.

Note: For the honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and hot water and stir until well mixed. Let cool before using, and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

  • Yield:makes 1 cocktail
  • Active time:5 minutes
  • Total time:5 minutes
  • Ingredients

    • 2 ounces blended Scotch whisky (Famous Grouse works well)
    • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
    • 3/4 ounce honey syrup (see note)
    • 3 slices fresh ginger
    • 1/4 ounce Islay single malt Scotch (such as Laphroaig)


    1. 1.

      Using a wooden muddler or mixing spoon, muddle the fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until it is well mashed. Add the blended Scotch, lemon juice, and honey syrup, and fill shaker with ice. Shake untill well chilled, about 20 seconds.

    2. 2.

      Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass (you may wish to double-strain through a fine tea strainer to remove the small flecks of ginger), and pour the Islay Scotch over the back of a bar spoon so that it floats atop the drink.

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