What Is Drambuie And How Do You Drink It?

So you decided to finally try a rusty nail, the signature cocktail of the Rat Pack that's half Scotch whisky, half Drambuie. Now you're probably wondering what that mysterious, non-Scotch half of the two-ingredient cocktail is. Drambuie is, after all, what makes the rusty nail so rusty, but, like the crooning members of the Rat Pack, has gained a rather old-fashioned reputation, however, it might be time to revive the Scottish liqueur.


Drambuie is made from Scotch whisky combined with spices, herbs, and honey. It traces its origins to the 18th century and was supposedly created for Bonnie Prince Charlie, an exiled royal of the house Stuart, which draws its roots from Scotland. The liqueur has proven to be a popular and satisfying liqueur enjoyed by many drinkers over the centuries, however, it wasn't produced commercially until 1908. Today, Drambuie is only produced by a single brand William Grant & Sons, and its recipe is kept as a highly prized secret.

The drink's recipe has been mysterious throughout history, though recipes for Drambuie were exchanged by various Scottish clans in the 18th century. But along with its history, the drink's name also lends to its Scottish mystique. Drambuie's name comes from the Scots Gaelic saying, 'An Dram Buidheach,' which means 'a drink that satisfies'. That certainly is a bold claim for a liqueur to make, but if you know how to enjoy the Scottish liqueur, it can certainly live up to its name.


How is Drambuie made?

Drambuie's exact makeup is, well, a secret. The recipe is (quite literally) kept under lock and key tucked safely away in a safe at William Grant & Sons. Though we don't know the exact recipe, we do know that Drambuie is made from Scotch whisky though it's more indulgent than its originating liqueur, containing herbs, spices, and honey. Since the liqueur is derived from the famous and quintessentially Scottish whisky, it is made from the base grains as whisky and is also fermented, distilled, and aged like whisky.


The master blender behind the production of the famous liqueur, Brian Kinsman was rather secretive when discussing the history of the drink with The Scotsman, however, he did say, "It's a natural product — heather honey, this secret essence, blended scotch whisky, a bit of saffron that gets added for colour and sugar." Ultimately, the mix results in an indulgent drink, sweeter than its originating drink (whisky), thanks to its added sugars. Kinsman said, "It's a great drink for those curious about whisky."

Drambuie vs. Whisky

Drambuie is a liqueur derived from whisky, however, the two are not interchangeable. Both whisky and Drambuie are made from cereal grains that go through a fermentation, distilling, and aging process, but since Drambuie is infused with herbs, spices, and honey, it's sweeter and richer than whisky. Like other whisky liqueurs such as Fireball, Drambuie brings extra sweetness, spice, and indulgence to whisky, and drinkers should be mindful of these flavor differences when creating whisky and Drambuie drinks. 


While whisky is used in cocktails and enjoyed on its own, Drambuie is not usually served neat or at room temperature. Instead, the sweet, spiced honey taste that Drambuie brings to the natural warmth of whisky makes for an incredible base for a drink. As a result, Drambuie should be used as a mixer, to help add some verve to your drinks. Of course, if you want to combine forces, Scotch and Drambuie together make the previously mentioned rusty nail cocktail.

What does Drambuie taste like?

Drambuie is sweet, but you probably already knew that. Liqueurs, which are liquors infused with spices, fruit, or additional flavorings, are always sweet, but along with that sweetness, Drambuie also brings a surprising level of complexity to the table thanks to a honey taste that is enhanced by a blend of various spices and herbs.


The exact spices infused into Drambuie have not been revealed, but many 'homemade' Drambuie recipes call for ingredients such as fennel, star anise, and rosemary. Ingredients such as anise and fennel would bring a licorice flavor to the drink, and rosemary makes for a surprisingly savory and aromatic addition. However, these improvised recipes don't necessarily represent the actual ingredients used in Drambuie since that's still very much a secret. But suffice to say that Drambuie offers complex and interesting flavors that can enhance almost any drink recipe.

How to cook with Drambuie

Because of its sweet and spiced flavor profile, Drambuie makes the perfect addition to drinks, desserts, or even dinner. There are boundless possibilities for the liqueur. 

Cocktails are probably this liqueur's most obvious application and its easy to add to Drambuie to classic cocktails like an old fashioned or Manhattan. It also makes a spicy addition to coffee-based cocktails and drinks; simply add a splash to a hot cup of coffee topped with whipped cream or swap it for the Irish whisky in an Irish coffee for an extra sweet and spicy pick-me-up. Scotch and Drambuie together make a rusty nail, but swap out the Scotch for Irish whisky and you've got yourself a Prince Donegal.


Beyond cocktails, you could add the drink to ice cream to give it a boozy and flavorful twist. Additionally, pairing the drink with other Scottish treats such as a nice, buttery Scottish shortbread can help you warm up after a misty day spent amidst the heather or the highlands, even if you only visited them in a book or TV show. Additionally, you can incorporate Drambuie into butterscotch recipes for a twist on the sweet sauce.

However, dessert isn't Drambuie's only culinary use. It can also be used in the dish aptly called chicken Drambuie, which is essentially chicken in a creamy sauce that features a touch of Drambuie. But you don't have to stop with chicken. Drambuie, like many liqueurs, can be added to many savory recipes as a flavorful punch.


Where to buy Drambuie

Drambuie is an iconic liqueur, so you can find it in almost any liquor store. Some grocery stores also sell Drambuie, although its availability depends on state liquor laws. The drink is brand-specific to William Grant & Sons, so there are no substitutions. Keep this in mind when searching for the liqueur. You'll likely find it alongside other spiced and honey-flavored whiskey drinks, including Wild Turkey Honey and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey.


For the most part, however, Drambuie is a staple in most establishments that sell liquor and alcoholic beverages. But if you're really in search of an authentic Drambuie experience, you can always drink it as it was meant to be enjoyed, in Scotland. So book a trip and find yourself an inviting bar and sample it on its home turf. At the very least, it makes a great alternative beverage for visitors who are not too fond of whisky.

Nutritional information about Drambuie

Drambuie has about 106 calories per 1-ounce serving. Most of its calories derive from alcohol and carbohydrates. Remember Drambuie is a liqueur and is therefore a sweet alcoholic beverage, so of course it is going to contain a fair amount of sugar. Drambuie is 40% alcohol by volume, which is a little less than its whisky counterpart, which typically ranges between 40% and 50% ABV. 


Drambuie unlike tequila or vodka, which are low-carb friendly, is more of an indulgence. The drink is infused with honey, so it has some sugar. Whisky, on the other hand, has no sugar. So if you're looking for something sweet, Drambuie is the right choice. Whereas whisky offers a low-sugar option. However, this is not to discount Drambuie as a drink choice. It is a liqueur, after all, and therefore an indulgence. Pairing it with a dessert, for example, will help you make the most of your sip.

Varieties of Drambuie

And in case you ever grow weary of Drambuie's very particular honey and spice taste, don't worry: there are several different varieties of the drink for you to enjoy. The Drambuie Hot Apple Toddy, for example, combines apples and spices with the signature Drambuie liqueur for a perfect autumnal treat.


There are also several different specialty varieties of Drambuie. Drambuie 15, for example, is an 86-proof version of the drink. It's drier than regular Drambuie. Drambuie Royal Legacy 1745 is another variety that is 92-proof. It was released in 2009 to celebrate the official anniversary of the drink. However, only 2,500 bottles of the variety were released. So you might have a tough time getting your hands on a bottle. Additionally, Drambuie has a variety called Drambuie Spirit of '45, which features a blend of 45-year-old whisky. However, that was even more limited. With only 150 bottles of the drink released don't count on getting a taste.

How to store Drambuie

Drambuie, like many high-proof alcoholic beverages, is safe to drink when kept at room temperature, however, it can also be kept in the refrigerator if you prefer to drink your Drambuie chilled. Refrigerating your Drambuie can also extend its shelf life, especially if you don't plan on drinking the bottle immediately after opening.


For certain uses, such as adding Drambuie to sauces and other dishes, it may be best to keep the drink at room temperature so as to not disrupt cooking times. And if you're not planning on refrigerating your Drambuie, you should still keep it in a cool, dry place, as you would with most liquors and liqueurs. This will ensure that your Drambuie keeps the best taste as long as possible. Ultimately, keeping your Drambuie refrigerated or at room temperature is up to personal preference. 

Though its alcohol content prevents it from spoiling like other drinks, such as wine, you should make sure not to consume Drambuie if its taste or smell has altered significantly after opening.