Smoky Scotch meets bracing ginger and sweet honey in a classic Penicillin cocktail.

Penicillin Cocktail

Matt Taylor-Gross / Food Styling by Oset Babür-Winter 

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If you’re a lover of a classic Whiskey Sour, the Penicillin will quickly become your go-to. Unlike the frothy, slightly creamy Whiskey Sour that gets its texture from an egg white, the Penicillin is a lighter cocktail with sweet and sour flavors alongside a warming, welcome hit of ginger. Like the wonder drug Penicillin, the antibiotic that has helped to cure a host of infections since its discovery in 1928, the eponymous cocktail is a cure-all, too.

A classic Penicillin notably features Scotch, and although the world of whiskey (or whisky) can be both daunting and confusing, understanding why a bartender might reach toward Scotch, instead of bourbon or whiskey in a particular drink is key to upgrading your cocktail game. Scotch is whisky (note, no ‘e’ in that whisky), made in Scotland. Scotch whisky must be made from malted barley, which is Scotch’s primary ingredient, along with water and yeast. Known for its warming, smokey flavor, Scotch can provide savory depth in a cocktail without adding too much body or unwanted sweetness. Scotch’s smoke comes largely from peat burned in the barley malting process, but not all Scotches are made the same. Keep in mind though that not all scotches have a peaty flavor. In fact, only two of the five Scotch producing regions are known for that signature peaty flavor. And when it comes to Scotch, plenty of age is key: Scotch has to be aged for at least three years to be sold under the name. Flavor is key, and using a Scotch you like, with a level of smoke tailored to your taste, is sure to upgrade your next Penicillin. 

Aside from a good quality Scotch, the Penicillin gets its signature warming spice and sweetness from a syrup made with honey and ginger. Pro tip: Make a big batch and store it in the fridge, toss it in tea, add a bit to a vodka soda, or make plenty more Penicillins — trust us, you won’t regret it. When tightly sealed, honey syrup should stay fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. The cocktail gets its balanced sour bite from freshly squeezed lemon juice, and can be garnished with a fragrant lemon peel as well as a delicious piece of candied ginger. 


Penicillin Cocktail

  • 2 1/4 ounces scotch

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice

  • 1 piece candied ginger

  • 3/4 ounce honey ginger syrup

Honey Ginger Syrup

  • 5 cups water

  • 4 tbsp fresh ginger

  • 4 ounces honey


Honey Ginger Syrup Recipe

  1. Stir one cup of honey into one cup of boiling water to make a plain honey syrup

  2. Peel and chop fresh ginger root, and add 4 tablespoons to the honey syrup. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Strain through a fine mesh sieve before using.

Penicillin Cocktail Recipe

  1. Combine all ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until frosted on the outside, between fifteen to twenty-five seconds.

  2. Strain into a rocks glass with one, large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon twist and a piece of candied ginger, as desired.

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