Liquor Type

Blended Scotch - 2 oz
Lemon Juice - 3/4 oz
Honey syrup - 2 tsp
Ginger Syrup - 2 tsp
Islay single malt Scotch - 1/4 oz

Shake blended Scotch, lemon juice, honey syrup and ginger syrup with ice. Strain over large ice in chilled rocks glass. Float smoky Scotch on top (be sure to use a smoky Scotch such as an Islay single malt). Garnish with candied ginger.

What is a Penicillin Cocktail?


It is not surprising that if you were on social media lately, you might have come across this drink trending. Although gin was once the most popular alcoholic beverage in mixed drinks, scotch now appears to be one of the top alcoholic beverages in mixed drinks. However, it can be a bit tricky when it comes to pairings due to its strong flavor. Making a cocktail made of scotch will help you understand how flavors play together so well that they create a truly unique drink, like the penicillin cocktail.

  • What is a penicillin cocktail?
  • Why is it called a penicillin cocktail?
  • What is in a penicillin cocktail?
  • What does a penicillin cocktail taste like?
  • How to make a penicillin cocktail?
  • What are the frequently asked questions?

What is a penicillin cocktail?

Penicillin is a classic cocktail that was made in 2005. It was named for the ingredients, which were said to be able to cure almost anything. The combination of Scotch, lemon juice, and honey syrup makes this drink both delicious and medicinal-tasting.

With its fresh and citrusy notes, this cocktail is a summertime favorite. Its name refers to the drink’s signature combination of gin, lime, and sugar, which lets you chill out in style.

Why is it called a penicillin cocktail?

A penicillin cocktail is a drink that is meant to help with cold symptoms like a sore throat, headache, fever, and feeling tired. It’s made with a mix of aromatic herbs known for their medicinal properties. 

The name “penicillin” suggests its effect is similar to that of a hot toddy, which is said to relieve the symptoms of the cold and flu. It has been said that the medicinal properties of these ingredients, when mixed with a hot toddy recipe, can serve as an alternative to penicillin.

What is in a penicillin cocktail?

The cocktail was created by Sam Ross as part of his debut menu at Milk & Honey. Ross wanted to honor Alexander Fleming, a British botanist who found penicillin in 1928. He also wanted to create a drink that could pair well with whiskey but could be served year-round.

Inspired by the Gold Rush, Ross decided to add blended scotch, fresh lemon, and a homemade honey-ginger syrup to create what he calls an ode to Islay. The result is a refined quaff that’s smooth but full-bodied and shows off less assertive whiskey cocktails like an old fashioned.

What does a penicillin cocktail taste like?

Whiskey sours are a popular cocktail because they provide the kind of flavor pairing that opens up a whiskey’s friendly, approachable side. When whiskey is mixed with citrus and a sweet element, it becomes something completely different—something much more drinkable.

The Penicillin cocktail is a Scotch whiskey sour with honey and ginger. Scotch sours are already pretty tasty, but spicy, smoky liquors like Scotch and mezcal love to find partners. Add a little ginger to your next Scotch sour for a drink that’s even more complex and delicious.

How do you make a penicillin cocktail?

To make penicillin, make honey-ginger syrup first. To create one, prepare honey, water, and a 3-inch piece of ginger root that has been peeled and sliced. Make a ginger honey syrup by bringing water and honey to a boil, adding a piece of ginger root, and simmering for 5 minutes. Store and strain it in the fridge.

After making the honey-ginger syrup, you can now make the penicillin cocktail. Set up the ingredients, which include blended Scotch, freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey-ginger syrup, ice, Islay Scotch, and candied ginger or lemon peel to decorate.

To make a penicillin cocktail, mix the blended Scotch, lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup in a shaker. Add ice after mixing the ingredients, and shake the mixture well. Strain the drink into a glass with ice. Add the Islay scotch on top. Be sure to pour it gently, using the back of a spoon.

You can choose to garnish with either lemon peel or candied ginger. For a stronger flavor, you can add both garnishes.

What are the frequently asked questions?

What bar serves a penicillin cocktail?

Every bartender has a favorite drink, or at least a cocktail that they make better than anyone else. Penicillin is one of these drinks, and it is always the most popular cocktail on the menu. A classic whisky drink, it comes in one version only, but it is still recommended that you ask the bartender what they like to serve.

Because it’s easy to make, almost all bars have the penicillin cocktail on their menu. In some bars, you can order it even if it’s not on the menu. For Scotch enthusiasts who’d like to try a unique cocktail, penicillin could be their new favorite.

Invented and first served in a bar in New York City, you can get a taste of penicillin cocktails in bars in this area. 

What are the other garnishes you can use for a penicillin cocktail?

For a more classic penicillin cocktail, you can garnish it with a slice of orange and an olive. For a garnish that is easy to work with, you can try a slice of fresh parsley. For a more visually stunning garnish, try slicing a lemon or lime into circles and placing them on the rim of your glass.

Other garnishes that pair well with this drink are several blueberries on a toothpick or straw. A spring of mint is a great touch as well. Some other easy garnishes to use in your penicillin cocktail are lemon wedges, celery stalks, and cherries.

The Origins of the Penicillin Cocktail

In 2005, Australian Sam Ross was working as a bartender at the Milk & Honey cocktail lounge in New York City. While playing with The Peat Monster, a scotch made by Compass Box, he made an interesting discovery.

He then added some ginger juice and poured the Islay Malt over the top of the Gold Rush cocktail, which is another whiskey-based contemporary classic that was created at Milk & Honey. After some time, he decided to call it penicillin and include it on the menu.

When it was finally added to the bar’s menu, it was an instant hit, not just with the patrons but also with the bartenders. It wasn’t long before word got around that Milk & Honey, which has since closed its doors, was one of the most important bars in America when it came to the artisan cocktail movement and speakeasy resurgence.

However, it wasn’t until a number of years later that it firmly established itself as one of the most popular drinks of all time. Ross went to Los Angeles in 2007 to help with the opening of a few bars. Even more quickly than its popularity had already spread, establishments on both coasts started including the simple sipper on their cocktail menus.

In an interview with Time published in 2013, Ross noted, “Friends send me photographs of penicillin on the menu from all over the place.” And ever since then, there have been a multitude of riffs based on the song Penicillin; in fact, it has been hailed as the “most riffed-on modern classic.” The Shrub & Shutter restaurant in London added some molecular components to their dish by using charred honey, oak smoke, and egg white.

During the summer, AMER in Atlanta made Penicillin Pops by replacing ginger syrup with ginger beer, and Diamond Reef in Brooklyn served frozen “Penicillins” from a slushie machine. Both of these drinks were named after the antibiotic. At the Bible Club Pdx in Portland over the course of the summer, slushy Penicillins were the go-to beverage of choice.


So if you like scotch and you already know the basic cocktail-making techniques, then the penicillin cocktail is a great choice for you. It’s definitely a cocktail with complex flavors, and it will take a while before you get used to the taste.

Once you do, though, it might become a regular in your repertoire. The penicillin cocktail is not only fairly simple to make, but it is also quite delicious. And if you use the right ingredients, this cocktail will be as memorable as it is tasty.