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Penicillin Cocktail


The Penicillin cocktail, a modern classic in the world of mixology, stands out for its distinctive blend of flavors. A base of smoky Scotch whisky combined with the sweetness of honey, the sharpness of fresh lemon juice, and the spicy kick of ginger creates a harmonious balance. Originating from the creative minds of bartenders seeking to innovate, this drink offers a therapeutic twist to the cocktail experience. Ideal for cold evenings or as a refreshing summer sip, the Penicillin cocktail promises a unique taste that invigorates the senses.

dried lemon wheels in two cocktail drinks with ginger in the back along with more wheels
Photo Credit: Dishes Delish.

The history of the penicillin cocktail

The Penicillin cocktail is a relatively modern addition to classic cocktails, invented by bartender Sam Ross in the mid-2000s. Sam Ross, an Australian bartender working at the time at Milk & Honey, a renowned cocktail bar in New York City, is credited with creating this innovative drink.

The cocktail was inspired by the classic flavors of some older Scotch drinks but with a unique twist that set it apart. Ross aimed to create a cocktail that was refreshing and appealing to a wide range of palates and could showcase the smoky characteristics of Scotch whisky in a new light. He achieved this by combining blended Scotch with a small measure of smoky Islay single malt, which gives the Penicillin its distinctive smoky flavor.

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The name “Penicillin” comes from the drink’s perceived medicinal qualities, with the fresh ginger and lemon juice evoking traditional cold remedies. This association plays into the cocktail’s comforting and restorative feel, making it particularly popular during the colder months or among those seeking a “cure” for what ails them.

Since its creation, the Penicillin cocktail has gained international fame and is now considered a modern classic, appearing on cocktail menus worldwide. Its popularity has also led to numerous variations and inspired other bartenders to create their own medicinal-themed concoctions. One such cocktail is the hot toddy.

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Helpful tips

  • I don’t have a lot of scotch lovers in my family or friend base, so I only have a blended scotch in my stash. Usually, this cocktail uses both the blended and Islay single malt. I didn’t want to buy the single malt as it would sit in my liquor cabinet for decades. This cocktail is delicious with and without it.
  • With that said, use high-quality Scotch whiskey for both the blended and the smoky Islay single malt components. The quality of the Scotch will significantly influence the flavor of the cocktail.
  • The key to a great Penicillin cocktail is the balance between the sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky flavors. Start with the recipe’s standard measurements, but don’t hesitate to adjust the amounts of lemon juice, honey-ginger syrup, and Scotch to suit your taste.
  • Make your own honey-ginger syrup for the best flavor. Combine equal parts honey and hot water, then add freshly grated or sliced ginger. Bring it to a boil before allowing it to simmer for at least 10 minutes. Before I strain out the ginger, I take a muddler and muddle the ginger in the syrup. This syrup should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
  • When serving this cocktail, a large ice cube in the glass looks impressive and keeps the drink cold longer without watering it down too quickly.
  • Although I’m not adding Islay scotch to this cocktail, if you do – instead of mixing it in, float the Islay Scotch on top of the cocktail after pouring it into the glass. This method preserves the smoky aroma and flavor, greeting the drinker with every sip.
  • Serve the Penicillin in a rocks glass for a classic look and to concentrate the drink’s aromas, enhancing the overall tasting experience. I also used this gorgeous whiskey mixer glass from GlenCairn.
  • I used a dehydrated lemon slice as a garnish, but I’ve also used a slice of candied ginger or a lemon twist. Any of them will add an extra touch of flavor and elegance to the presentation.
  • Once you’re comfortable with the basic recipe, feel free to experiment. Some bartenders add a bit of an herbal liqueur or use different types of honey to add depth.
horizontal photo of a board with a amber drink on it with dried lemons and ginger
Photo Credit: Dishes Delish.

How to make honey, ginger syrup

Add equal parts of water and honey in a saucepan. Also, peel and slice a piece of ginger. I used 1/4 cup water, honey, and an inch-long piece of ginger. Turn the heat under the saucepan to medium heat, and once the honey has melted and the mixture is at a light boil, lower it to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, take a muddler, and muddle the ginger. Set aside to cool. You can let it cool in the refrigerator if you like.

How to make the penicillin cocktail

Pre-step

Make the honey, ginger syrup at least 30 minutes before starting the recipe. You want it to have time to cook, steep, and cool before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

After measuring out the ingredients, add them to the cocktail shaker.

Step one

Get a cocktail shaker and fill it halfway with ice. Also, get your glassware, either a whiskey mixer glass, rocks glass, or double old-fashioned glass.

Step two

Gather the ingredients – scotch whiskey, fresh lemon, and cooled honey-ginger syrup. (A)

Step three

Measure out 4 ounces of scotch. (B)

Left - scotch, lemon, ginger, and honey on a table. Right - scotch measured out
Photo Credit: Dishes Delish.

Step four

Measure out 1 ounce of honey syrup. (C)

Step five

Measure out 1.5 ounces of fresh lemon juice. (D)

Left - ginger infused honey syrup in a measuring glass. Right - lemon juice measured ot with lemon in the back
Photo Credit: Dishes Delish.

Step six

Add fresh ice to the glassware. I like to use large ice cubes, but one of the the glasses had a thinner opening, so I had to use smaller cubes.

Place the lid on the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain, divide, and pour the liquid between the two glasses. Add your garnish. I’m using dehydrated lemon slices.

A beautiful faceted glass on a board with another glass in the back filled with the cocktail
Photo Credit: Dishes Delish.

Doesn’t that look refreshing and delicious?

Two vertical views of the amber cocktail in glasses with ginger on the table along with lemon wheels
Photo Credit: Dishes Delish.

It’s a satisfying sipping cocktail!

I hope you enjoyed this penicillin cocktail recipe. It’s my favorite scotch drink.

Other whiskey drinks

And as always, may all your dishes/drinks delish!

If you’ve tried this recipe, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOKTWITTERINSTAGRAM, and PINTEREST to see more of my delicious food and delightful cocktails!

Two glasses on the table, on one a board with ginger root and sliced dried lemons

Penicillin Cocktail

This three-ingredient Scotch cocktail is delicious, refreshing, and restorative! Try it and see how well-balanced it is.
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Cocktail
Cuisine: Scottish
Keyword: penicillin cocktail, scotch cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Making the syrup: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 2 cocktails
Calories: 185kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces scotch whiskey (blended)
  • 1.5 ounces lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 ounce honey-ginger syrup (see notes on how to make it)

Garnish

  • 2 wheels dehydrated lemon slices (or lemon twists – or candied ginger)

Instructions

  • Get a cocktail shaker and fill it halfway with ice. Get a measuring glass and glassware.
  • Add scotch, lemon juice, and honey syrup.
    4 ounces scotch whiskey, 1.5 ounces lemon juice, 1 ounce honey-ginger syrup
  • Add fresh ice to the glassware. Place the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously for at least 10 seconds. Strain, divide, and pour the drink between the two glasses
  • Add the garnish of your choice.
    2 wheels dehydrated lemon slices
  • Sip, smile, and enjoy.
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Notes

You can make the honey-ginger syrup earlier in the day or even a few days before.
Here’s how:
Add equal parts of water and honey in a saucepan. Also, peel and slice a piece of ginger. I used 1/4 cup water, honey, and an inch-long piece of ginger. Turn the heat under the saucepan to medium heat, and once the honey has melted and the mixture is at a light boil, lower it to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, take a muddler, and muddle the ginger. Set aside to cool. You can let it cool in the refrigerator if you like.

Helpful tips

  • I don’t have a lot of scotch lovers in my family or friend base, so I only have a blended scotch in my stash. Usually, this cocktail uses both the blended and Islay single malt. I didn’t want to buy the single malt as it would sit in my liquor cabinet for decades. This cocktail is delicious with and without it.
  • With that said, use high-quality Scotch whiskey for both the blended and the smoky Islay single malt components. The quality of the Scotch will significantly influence the flavor of the cocktail.
  • The key to a great Penicillin cocktail is the balance between the sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky flavors. Start with the recipe’s standard measurements, but don’t hesitate to adjust the amounts of lemon juice, honey-ginger syrup, and Scotch to suit your taste.
  • Make your honey-ginger syrup for the best flavor. Combine equal parts honey and hot water, then add freshly grated or sliced ginger. Bring it to a boil before allowing it to simmer for at least 10 minutes. Before I strain out the ginger, I take a muddler and muddle the ginger in the syrup. This syrup should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
  • When serving this cocktail, a large ice cube in the glass looks impressive and keeps the drink cold longer without watering it down too quickly.
  • Although I’m not adding Islay scotch to this cocktail, if you do – instead of mixing it in, float the Islay Scotch on top of the cocktail after pouring it into the glass. This method preserves the smoky aroma and flavor, greeting the drinker with every sip.
  • Serve the Penicillin in a rocks glass for a classic look and to concentrate the drink’s aromas, enhancing the overall tasting experience. I also used this gorgeous whiskey mixer glass from GlenCairn.
  • I used a dehydrated lemon slice as a garnish, but I’ve also used a slice of candied ginger or a lemon twist. Any of them will add an extra touch of flavor and elegance to the presentation.
  • Once you’re comfortable with the basic recipe, feel free to experiment. Some bartenders add a bit of an herbal liqueur or use different types of honey to add depth.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cocktail | Calories: 185kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 8mg | Potassium: 31mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
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From lighting up stages with her BA in theater to food journalist, Elaine Benoit's journey is a testament to passion's transformative power. As the CEO of Dishes Delish, she offers a blend of healthy, comforting recipes and exquisitely crafted cocktails. Beyond the kitchen, Elaine voiced her culinary adventures on her podcast, "Dishing," and co-owns Food Blogger Help, extending her expertise to guide budding food bloggers to success. Whether it's for a heartwarming dish or insights into food blogging, Elaine's diverse experiences make her a beacon in the culinary digital landscape.

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18 Comments

  1. What an interesting name for a cocktail. I guess people will feel like it is healthy lol. Either way, playing bartender at home is fun.

  2. This makes a great party drink or a hot afternoon drink because not only it refreshes you, it also gives you a little kick done by the whiskey!

  3. I have never heard of this cocktail. This could revolutionize the pharmaceutical world. I would take this over the other any day. I love the sweet, spicy, citrus profile of this drink. Patio season is coming; I could see this making a guest appearance! ๐Ÿ‘

  4. What a great cocktail idea for when you are feeling under the weather! And that honey-ginger syrup would also be great in hot tea. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Loved the honey ginger flavor in this penicillin cocktail. It turned out absolutely delicious. We will definitely make this again.

  6. Talk about perfect timing! I’m sick right now and I have to point out just how AMAZING the honey ginger syrup is! I hadn’t heard of this drink before but am so happy I now have it in my recipe box! Thank you for this!

  7. So interesting to read about the cocktail. I have heard many stories from my grandparents about using cocktail blends to help with cold during winter months. The honey ginger syrup is a keeper. I used it in lemonade and my boys loved it.

  8. This cocktail seems really refreshing yet flavorful. I also appreciate the history you provided on the drink as well.

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