Food & Drink » Remix

Our spirit-swapped Penicillin cocktail subs tequila for scotch



I didn't have this cold when I decided to Remix the classic Penicillin cocktail this month. But acquiring it certainly made the decision a welcome one.

Calling the Penicillin a classic cocktail might seem a stretch; it was first mixed by Milk + Honey bartender Sam Ross in 2005, so it doesn't have the decades of history behind it that most Remix subjects do. But it isn't a misnomer. The Penicillin has spread so widely in its dozen years that it's achieved, shall we say, "new classic" status, and I have no doubt it will live as long as the Sazerac.

Like the Sazerac, the Penicillin is a medicinal elixir – with its scotch whisky base cradled in a honey-lemon-ginger mixture, it's practically a home remedy. But the float of peaty Islay single-malt across the top takes the drink into more sophisticated territory.

As I've admitted in the past, I'm not much of a scotch fan, but I like that smokiness, and the citrus and honey appealed to my sore throat and congested chest. So I did a few simple swaps, trading oak-aged tequila and also-smoky mezcal for the whiskeys, grapefruit for the lemon, and fresh ginger for the syrup Ross calls for.

Remember that canned or bottled fruit juice is anathema to a well-made cocktail; use bright, fresh grapefruit juice or don't bother making the drink at all. As for the tequila, quality should be somewhere in the middle – don't waste a fine añejo by mixing it with all these other flavors, but a raw blanco will make for a mighty flat drink, so use a reposado. And since the mezcal, small as the amount is, is mostly responsible for the aromatic experience, use the best you can afford.


2 ounces blended scotch

3⁄4 ounce fresh lemon juice

3⁄4 ounce honey-ginger syrup

1⁄4 ounce Islay single malt scotch

First, make the syrup: Combine a cup of honey, a cup of water, and a 6-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced, in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for five minutes; strain and allow to cool overnight.

Combine blended scotch, lemon juice and syrup in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass with one large piece of ice. Top with single-malt scotch.


2 ounces reposado tequila

3⁄4 ounce fresh grapefruit juice

3⁄4 ounce honey syrup

3 slices ginger, peeled

1/4 ounce mezcal

First, make the syrup: Combine equal parts honey and hot water in a tightly lidded jar and shake until blended. Allow to cool completely before using in cocktail.

Place ginger at the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle thoroughly. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, syrup and ice to the shaker. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass. Top with mezcal.


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