A modern classic and a perfect blend of warming whisky and ginger with a lick of peat.

The Penicillin cocktail may not be the cure-all of its namesake medicine, but if it’s woes, worries or winter blues you’re keeping at bay, look no further.

1 serving
  • 50 ml Scotch Whisky
  • 25 ml Honey & Ginger Syrup
  • 20 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 10 ml Peated Malt Whisky
  1. Add the Scotch, lemon juice, honey & ginger syrup into a shaker with ice and shake.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass and gently float the peated whisky on top.

At first glance, the Penicillin looks like a small twist on a Scotch-based Whiskey Sour or a boozy Hot Toddy - but it’s far more. Made with both blended and peaty Scotch and backed by ginger, the cocktail has become a true modern classic.

The Penicillin cocktail takes the flavours of honey and lemon juice combined with a piquant kick of fresh ginger, and layers them on a warming nip of whisky. What makes this drink sing however is the dual use of Scotch Whisky styles, especially when you add the peated component as a thin float. 

Penicillin Cocktail
Penicillin Cocktail

Top tips – 

Keep in mind that the heart of the drink is the blended Scotch, lemon and sugar (honey) syrup. They create balance in the drink. How you use the ginger and the peated malt is what makes the difference. Get those right, in particular the right level of heat and sweetness in the ginger syrup, and you’ll be blown away. 

You can add in the peated malt at the same time as the rest of the whisky if you really want to. That said, using it as a float is the brilliance of the cocktail as it places the spirit’s smoky aromatics front and centre with each sip. It’s worth taking a moment to layer it on at the end.

There are two ways to make a great ginger syrup - 

The first begins by peeling and thinly slicing root ginger. Place it in a saucepan with runny honey and water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool, put it in a sealed container and place it in a refrigerator so that it can all infuse overnight. Strain, bottle and off you go!

The second method is to juice fresh ginger and then strain. Add honey and water into the mix and it’s done. It’s quicker and in our opinion better – but can only be done if you have a juicer.


Such is the iconic “Modern Classic” status of the cocktail; it seems mad to state that the Penicillin is less than 20 years old.

It was created by Australian bartender Sam Ross in the mid-2000s, when he was working at New York City’s famous Milk & Honey. Its invention was the result of Ross deciding to riff on the Gold Rush (a well-known Milk & Honey original) which features bourbon, lemon juice and honey. 

The drink quickly gained a foothold and it’s now served all around the world. 

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