Penicillin Cocktail

Learn how to make a classic Penicillin cocktail, a delicious blend of Scotch whiskey, honey, lemon and ginger that will cure your thirst and leave you feeling satisfied and sophisticated.

Two glasses of Penicillin Cocktail with gold garnishes, perfect for a cocktail party.

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Penicillin cocktail recipe

Cocktails certainly aren’t medicine, but many spirits, liqueurs and other ingredients stem from tinctures and digestifs prescribed by doctors and pharmacists in bygone eras.

Today, people still enjoy cocktails as their own home remedies, such as the Bloody Mary which is often considered a “hangover cure.”

The Penicillin includes whiskey (specifically Scotch) and the flavors of honey, lemon and ginger, which are all ingredients of the beloved hot toddy, another cocktail with cold remedy vibes.

More Scotch recipes: Scotch Old-FashionedSmoked Old-FashionedScotch Mule

Why you’ll love this recipe

The Penicillin drink is a delicious whiskey cocktail that you are going to love.

  • Whiskey lovers will love trying this modern and flavorful cocktail.
  • If you’re a mixology novice, this drink is a great drink to know.
  • With just four ingredients, it is an easy one to make.
  • It’s also a great way to get familiar with drinking Scotch whisky.
Two glasses of Penicillin Cocktail with a slice of lemon on top, perfect for enjoying a refreshing cocktail.

What is a Penicillin cocktail?

The Penicillin is a modern classic cocktail based on the whiskey sour, featuring Scotch whisky, honey syrup, ginger liqueur and lemon juice. Some people swap out the ginger liqueur and use a honey-ginger syrup instead.

Like the Painkiller and Medicine Ball, the Penicillin cocktail is so-named as a “cure for what ails you.” It’s nicknamed for the antibiotic but does not include any medicine.

What does a Penicillin taste like?

The Penicillin cocktail is a whiskey cocktail, typically made with Scotch whisky in particular. Scotch has a strong, smoky, peaty flavor that adds depth and complexity to cocktails.

The drink also includes the flavors of lemon, honey and ginger. These give it a sweet, zesty and spicy flavor that’s refreshing and bright.

If you are new to drinking Scotch, this cocktail is a nice one to start with because it combines familiar flavors with this complex spirit.

A glass of lemonade with a toothpick in it, resembling a cocktail.

History of the Penicillin drink

Bartender Sam Ross created the Penicillin cocktail at the bar Milk & Honey, according to Men’s Journal. He’s also the creator of the Paper Plane cocktail and the Kentucky Maid (similar to the Irish Maid).

Ross said the Penicillin cocktail is a riff on the Gold Rush cocktail, a drink of whiskey, lemon juice, honey and ginger ale.

Tools & glassware

You can easily make a Penicillin cocktail at home with a few simple tools. For this drink, you’ll need a basic bar set that includes:

  • jigger, for measuring
  • cocktail shaker, for mixing everything together
  • strainer, for pouring
  • bar spoon, for the float of Scotch on top
  • large ice cube mold or clear ice maker

A Penicillin cocktail is usually served in a rocks glass, which is a short tumbler. They are also sometimes called old-fashioned glasses.

A person holding a slice of lemon on a cocktail pick over a cocktail.

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to grab at the grocery store and liquor store to make this recipe:

  • blended Scotch whisky
  • honey-ginger syrup (made with honey, ginger root and water)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Islay single malt Scotch

Additionally, you may want to pick up some candied ginger and slice up a lemon for garnishes. Skewer the ginger on a cocktail pick.

Best scotch for the Penicillin

The Penicillin cocktail calls for two kinds of Scotch whisky: blended and Islay single malt.

It’s important to select the right Scotch whisky for the Penicillin cocktail, as it plays a significant role in shaping the drink’s flavor profile. That said, you should definitely experiment to find your favorites.

  • Best blended Scotch whisky: Monkey Shoulder is a popular brand for the Penicillin cocktail. According to Men’s Journal, Ross uses Benriach’s The Original Ten for this component.
  • Islay single malt Scotch whisky: Laphroaig 10 Year is a great choice for the Islay float. According to Men’s Journal, Ross uses Benriach’s The Smoky Twelve for the float on top.

If you want to experiment further, try the Penicillin cocktail with other types of whiskey such as bourbon, rye or Irish whiskey.

cooked ginger ale concentrate before straining out the ginger.

Honey-ginger syrup

Ross’ honey-ginger syrup is what gives this cocktail its sweetness and its bite. It’s basically a cross between ginger syrup and honey syrup, which is also called runny honey.

To make your own honey-ginger syrup, you will need a 4-inch piece of ginger root, honey and water. Here’s what to do:

  1. Peel and dice ginger root into ½-inch pieces.
  2. Cook ginger and water together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes for a milder syrup. Cook for 15 minutes for stronger ginger flavor. Remove from heat.
  3. While mixture is warm, strain out ginger pieces. Stir in honey.
  4. Store in an airtight, food-safe container such a mason jar.

Another option is to use a store-bought ginger-infused honey.

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A person pouring liquid into a glass to make a cocktail.

How to make a Penicillin Cocktail

You can make this easy Penicillin recipe in a few simple steps:

  1. First, make the honey-ginger syrup. (Directions in the recipe card below.) Let cool.
  2. Then, to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the blended Scotch, lemon juice and honey-ginger syrup.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over a large piece of ice.
  4. Top with a float of Islay single malt Scotch whisky.
  5. Garnish with candied ginger and a piece of lemon, if desired.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making this recipe:

  • Adjust the sweetness or acidity to suit your tastes.
  • For a stronger ginger flavor in the syrup, add the honey to the ginger-water mixture and leave the ginger pieces in the jar overnight.
  • Experiment with different brands of Scotch until you find your favorite.
  • Top things off with a professional-looking garnish. I used a piece of candied ginger and a lemon slice speared on a cocktail pick.
  • Decorate your ice cube with an ice designer.
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Two glasses of Penicillin Cocktail with gold garnishes, perfect for a cocktail party.

What to serve with Penicillin Cocktails

Look for dishes that complement the flavors of the Penicillin cocktail. Cheesy appetizers like bacon & honey baked brie and charcuterie boards would work beautifully.

Spicy snacks like spicy chickpeas or sriracha hummus and pita chips would go well too.

FAQ

What type of whiskey is in a Penicillin cocktail?

The Penicillin cocktail calls for two kinds of Scotch whisky: blended and Islay single malt.

How do you make honey ginger syrup for the Penicillin cocktail?

You can make your own honey ginger syrup at home with a piece of fresh ginger, honey and water. First, peel and dice ginger root into ½-inch pieces. Cook ginger and water together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes for a milder syrup. Cook for 15 minutes for stronger ginger flavor. Remove from heat. While mixture is warm, strain out ginger pieces. Stir in honey. Store in an airtight, food-safe container such a mason jar.

More classic whiskey cocktails

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Two glasses of Penicillin Cocktail with gold garnishes, perfect for a cocktail party.

Penicillin Cocktail

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Shake up a Penicillin Cocktail, a modern classic that is sweet, tart, spiced and smoky.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

Honey-ginger syrup

  • 1 piece ginger root about 4 to 6 inches
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup honey

Penicillin cocktail

  • 2 ounces blended Scotch whisky
  • 1 ounce honey-ginger syrup
  • 1 ounce lemon juice freshly-squeezed
  • ¼ ounce Islay single malt Scotch

instructions

Honey-ginger syrup

  • Peel and dice ginger root into ½-inch pieces.
  • Cook ginger and water together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes for a milder syrup. Cook for 15 minutes for stronger ginger flavor. Remove from heat.
  • While mixture is warm, strain out ginger pieces. Stir in honey. Let cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight, food-safe container such a mason jar.

Penicillin cocktail

  • To a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the blended Scotch, lemon juice and honey-ginger syrup.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over a large piece of ice.
  • Top with a float of Islay single malt Scotch whisky.
  • Garnish with candied ginger and a piece of lemon on a cocktail pick, if desired.

notes

  • Adjust the sweetness or acidity to suit your tastes.
  • For a more robust ginger flavor in the syrup, add the honey to the ginger-water mixture and leave the ginger pieces in the jar overnight.
  • Experiment with different brands of Scotch until you find your favorite.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 4.25ounces Calories: 252kcal Carbohydrates: 25g Protein: 0.2g Fat: 0.1g Saturated Fat: 0.01g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g Sodium: 1mg Potassium: 45mg Fiber: 0.1g Sugar: 24g Vitamin A: 2IU Vitamin C: 11mg Calcium: 3mg Iron: 0.1mg
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