The Penicillin cocktail was created by Sam Ross in the mid-2000s, when he was working at New York City’s famous Milk & Honey bar. The drink quickly gained a foothold as a modern-classic cocktail. It’s now served around the world, proving its status as one of the 21st century’s biggest cocktail success stories.
In creating the drink, Ross decided to riff on the Gold Rush, another Milk & Honey original, that features bourbon, lemon juice and honey. He skipped the bourbon and instead opted to mix blended scotch with fresh lemon and a homemade honey-ginger syrup, which added sweetness and the classic bite of ginger. Ross then added a float of peaty scotch from Islay, an island known for producing smoky whiskies.
The blended scotch, lemon and sweetened syrup create balance in the drink, similar to that which you’ll find in a Whiskey Sour. The Penicillin is sweet, tart, spicy and delicious, garnished with a welcome snack of candied ginger. But that topper of Islay scotch is the genius behind the cocktail, keeping the spirit’s smoky aromatics front and center with each sip. As such, Ross prefers to serve the drink without a straw—so you don’t miss a single note.
Click Play to See This Penicillin Recipe Come Together
- 2 ounces blended scotch
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 3/4 ounce honey-ginger syrup*
- 1/4 ounce Islay single malt scotch
- Garnish: candied ginger
Add the blended scotch, lemon juice and syrup into a shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Top with the Islay single malt scotch.
Garnish with a piece of candied ginger.
*Honey-ginger syrup: Combine 1 cup honey, 1 6-inch piece of peeled and thinly sliced ginger and 1 cup water in a saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes. Place in the refrigerator to steep overnight. Strain with a cheesecloth.