Think back to a time when classic cocktails were not all the rage. It’s hard but back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, one bar changed everything. There in New York City, the Penicillin cocktail was born!
The Penicillin Cocktail is a modern classic that was created by Australian bartender Sam Ross. Ross was working at Milk & Honey, one of the most famous bars in the world, when he came up with the recipe in 2005. He was inspired by the flavors of Scotch whisky and ginger, and he wanted to create a drink that combined them in a refreshing and balanced way.
The Penicillin Cocktail quickly became popular among New York bartenders and spread to other cities in the United States. It was named the “New Drink of the Twenty-First Century” by Time Out New York and was included in the list of “Famous Cocktails” by Difford’s Guide.
Where to find ingredients for the Penicillin and other rum cocktails
Ingredients for the Penicillin
Making a Penicillin cocktail requires several ingredients that combine to create a smoky flavor and aroma. Here’s a breakdown of the key ingredients:
- Blended Scotch: The base spirit of the Penicillin cocktail is blended Scotch whisky. It provides the cocktail with its robust and malty flavors. The choice of whisky can vary, but a well-rounded blended Scotch, like Famous Grouse or Monkey Shoulder, is commonly used.
- Fresh Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a tart, citrusy flavor to the cocktail. It also balances the sweetness of the honey-ginger syrup and complements the smoky flavors of the whisky.
- Honey Ginger Syrup: The honey-ginger syrup is a crucial ingredient that imparts both sweetness and a hint of spiciness to the cocktail. It’s made by combining honey, water, and fresh slices of ginger, simmering them together to create a syrup with a zing!
- Islay Scotch Whisky: A small amount of peaty Islay Scotch whisky is used as a float on top of the cocktail. This float of Islay whisky adds that layer of smokiness and a distinct peaty flavor that enhances the overall complexity of the drink.
- Slices of Fresh Ginger: Thin slices of fresh ginger are often used as a garnish for the Penicillin cocktail.
- Large Ice Cube: The use of a large, single ice cube in the rocks glass helps to chill the drink without diluting it too quickly. It’s a practical choice to maintain the cocktail’s flavors over time and it looks sexy too!
- Lemon Peel (for garnish): A twist of lemon peel is commonly used as a garnish for the Penicillin cocktail. It adds a citrusy aroma and a visually appealing element to the drink.
The Penicillin cocktail is all about balance, combining the smoky, malty notes of Scotch whisky with the sweet and spicy elements of honey and ginger, all with a citrusy twist from the lemon juice. The addition of the Islay Scotch whisky float is the final touch that elevates this cocktail to a modern classic, offering a bold and smoky contrast to the other flavors.
What equipment you need to make the Penicillin
You’ll be shaking this one, so grab your cocktail shaker! You’ll need some other essential cocktail equipment to ensure that you can mix and serve it properly, but you can always use what you have!
- Cocktail Shaker: A cocktail shaker is essential for mixing the ingredients thoroughly and chilling the cocktail. You can use a Boston shaker (a two-piece shaker consisting of a mixing glass and a metal tin) or a three-piece cobbler shaker.
- Rocks Glass: The Penicillin cocktail is traditionally served in a rocks glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass. It’s a short, wide glass that’s perfect for serving cocktails with ice cubes.
- Jigger: A jigger is a measuring tool with two different-sized ends, typically one ounce (30 ml) on one side and 1.5 ounces (45 ml) on the other. It’s used to accurately measure the ingredients for your cocktail.
- Bar Spoon: A long-handled bar spoon is used for stirring cocktails. It’s especially handy when you need to gently layer or float a spirit on top of a cocktail.
- Strainer: A Hawthorne strainer or fine mesh strainer is used to strain the cocktail as you pour it from the shaker into the rocks glass, ensuring that ice and any small ice shards are not transferred to the final drink.
- Citrus Juicer: To extract fresh lemon juice, you’ll need a citrus juicer. This ensures that you get the maximum amount of juice from your lemons.
- Knife and Cutting Board: You’ll need a knife and cutting board to slice fresh ginger for garnish and, if needed, to cut a lemon peel for garnish.
- Ice Cube Tray: To make large ice cubes, you’ll want an ice cube tray that produces large, single cubes. These cubes are perfect for maintaining the cocktail’s temperature without excessive dilution.
- Muddler (optional): If you want to extract additional ginger flavor from the ginger garnish or muddle ginger for the cocktail, a muddler may be useful.
Having the right equipment on hand ensures that you can accurately measure, mix, and serve your Penicillin cocktail with ease.
Now that you’re well-equipped and familiar with the ingredients, it’s time to bring the Penicillin to life. Follow these steps for a flawless cocktail!
Step 1: Prepare the Honey-Ginger Syrup
The heart of the Penicillin cocktail lies in the homemade honey-ginger syrup. To make this, In a small saucepan, combine the honey and water over low heat. Add slices of fresh ginger for that extra kick of flavor. Stir until the honey is completely dissolved. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the ginger to infuse its essence into the syrup. Remove from heat, strain out the ginger slices, and let the syrup cool.
Step 2: Mix the Cocktail
Now that you have your honey-ginger syrup ready, it’s time to craft the Penicillin cocktail: In a cocktail shaker, combine blended Scotch whisky, fresh lemon juice, and ginger-honey syrup. Add fresh ice to the shaker and shake vigorously until well-chilled. Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with a large ice cube.
Step 3: The Peaty Scotch Float
The Penicillin cocktail’s signature touch is the float of peaty whisky. Here’s how to add it: Using a bar spoon, gently pour ¼ oz of whisky over the back of the spoon to create a float. It’s easier than you might think.
Step 4: Garnish and Serve
Give your Penicillin cocktail the final touch by garnishing it with a twist of lemon peel and a slice of fresh ginger.
Why Lush Life loves it
Whisky, ginger, honey, lemon – when I am not feeling well, I make myself a Hot Toddy will these exact ingredients and it makes me feel better. So why wouldn’t I use the same combo when I am well!!! So perfect it is in balance! It’s a great one!
Plus more whisky cocktails here
Here is the Penicillin recipe!
In the late 1990's and early 2000's, one bar changed everything. There in New York City, the Penicillin cocktail was born!
- 2 oz Blended Scotch whisky
- ¾ oz Fresh lemon juice
- ¾ oz Honey-ginger syrup *
- ¼ oz Islay Scotch whisky (for the float)
- Slices of fresh ginger (for garnish)
- A large ice cube
- Lemon peel (for garnish)
- In a cocktail shaker, combine blended Scotch whisky, fresh lemon juice, and the ginger-honey syrup.
- Add fresh ice to the shaker
- Shake, shake, shake
- Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with a large ice cube.
- Using a bar spoon, gently pour ¼ oz of Islay Scotch whisky over the back of the spoon to create a float.
*Fresh ginger syrup:
- 1 cup / 200g ginger
- 1/4 cup / 50g water
Blend until a pulp and squeeze through a tea towel until no juice remains. Weigh this liquid and add an equal weight of white sugar.
*Ginger honey syrup:
- 1 cup / 200g honey
- 1 cup / 200g water
- 1/2 cup / 100g peeled and diced ginger
In a small saucepan, combine the honey and water over low heat, Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the ginger to infuse its essence into the syrup. Remove from heat, strain out the ginger, and let the syrup cool.
**Smoked ginger honey:
- 1 cup / 200g honey
- 1 cup / 200g water
- 1/2 cup / 100g peeled and diced ginger
Bring to a boil, cover and very gently simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool to room temperature and add 50ml heavily peated whisky. Strain out ginger.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 490Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 60mgCarbohydrates: 87gFiber: 2gSugar: 54gProtein: 1g
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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