Part of the fun of cocktails is all the colorful tales that come with them. Here's a very modern, very inspiring story I came across recently that goes with a tall, cool, summery sipper: the Scotland Yard.
A few weeks ago, I sampled the Scotland Yard at an event where its creator, Duane Fernandez, Jr., was working the bar. It was a hot, humid night and I found the drink incredibly refreshing from the very first sip. Sweet, lemony, herbal, boozy, and slightly spicy, it was served on the rocks in a tall glass, garnished with a fragrant sprig of basil.
As I watched Duane expertly prepare another and then another for a long line of thirsty customers, he told me the story of how the drink came to be:
Several years ago, Duane got his first job as a bartender in a New York City bar he now prefers not to name. He was fired on his very first day.
After completing a two-week training period, Duane had reported in for his debut solo shift. Right off the bat, the bar's owner asked him to make an old-school cocktail, the Rusty Nail. Duane, who was well-versed in popular modern drinks, had no idea what went into this cocktail from his grandpa's generation. The owner let him go on the spot.
When Duane got back home, the first thing he did was to look up the recipe for the Rusty Nail. It was simple: a two-ingredient drink made from blended Scotch whisky and the Scottish whisky-based honey and herbal liqueur, Drambuie. It was a recipe he'd never forget.
When, in 2008, Duane heard that Drambuie was holding a competition for new recipes featuring the liqueur, he was determined to make good. He came up with a cocktail that uses the Rusty Nail as a base, but builds on it, making it light and bright and summery with the addition of fresh lemon juice, homemade ginger syrup, and fresh basil leaves.
The recipe won first prize.
Today, the Scotland Yard is a mainstay on the menu of the West Village bar where Duane now happily works, Entwine.
This week, I gave Duane's recipe a try at home and was very pleased with the results:
Scotland Yard (adapted from Duane Fernandez, Jr., of Entwine, NYC) makes one cocktail
3/4 ounce Drambuie 2 ounces blended Scotch whisky (I used Famous Grouse) 1/2 ounce of fresh lemon juice 1/2 ounce ginger syrup (commercially bottled or made fresh*) 5 fresh basil leaves
Place all ingredients, including the basil leaves, in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with a basil sprig.
*Ginger syrup recipe: Combine one cup of water and one cup of granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Add some peeled and coarsely-chopped pieces of fresh ginger root (I used a chunk about the size of a small apricot). Simmer on low heat until the sugar dissolves and the flavors combine (about 5 minutes or so). Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid. Keeps in the refrigerator about 2 weeks.
[I'll be taking a 6-week hiatus from Straight Up to work on another writing project. I'll be back October 8. Until then, cheers! -Nora]
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.