Penicillin Cocktail

[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.

Penicillin Cocktail

About This Recipe

Yield:makes 1 cocktail
Active time:5 minutes
Total time:5 minutes
Special equipment:muddler, cocktail shaker and strainer


  • 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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