Penicillin | Cotswold Cocktail School
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ABV 22% / 2.85 Alcoholic Units

Primary Spirit: Whisky

A Brief History of a Penicillin

The Penicillin cocktail was created in the early 2000s by renowned bartender Sam Ross at the New York City bar Milk & Honey. Inspired by the classic whisky sour, Ross added his own twist with the inclusion of honey-ginger syrup and a float of smoky Islay Scotch. The name "Penicillin" reflects the drink’s perceived soothing and curative properties, much like the medicinal whisky and honey mixtures of old. Since its creation, the Penicillin has gained a reputation as a staple of modern mixology, celebrated for its innovative use of ingredients and complex flavour profile.

Taste and Flavour Profile

The Penicillin cocktail delivers a harmonious blend of smoky, sweet, and tangy flavours. The smoky depth of Scotch whisky is beautifully balanced by the bright citrus notes of lemon juice and the comforting warmth of honey-ginger syrup. The result is a multi-layered cocktail that starts with a smoky, slightly peaty kick, followed by a burst of fresh lemon, and finishing with a smooth, sweet, and spicy aftertaste. It’s a complex yet approachable drink that leaves a lasting impression.

Food Pairings

The Penicillin cocktail’s rich, smoky, and slightly sweet profile pairs well with a variety of dishes. It complements savory and robust flavours, making it an excellent companion to smoked meats, such as smoked salmon or brisket. The cocktail also pairs nicely with aged cheeses, where the drink’s complexity can match the rich, intense flavours of the cheese. Additionally, dishes with a touch of sweetness and spice, like honey-glazed pork or ginger-infused Asian cuisine, harmonise beautifully with the Penicillin’s honey-ginger syrup.

Bar Equipment

  • Cocktail shaker
  • Hawthorne strainer
  • Rocks glass
  • Jigger


  • 45ml Blended scotch whisky
  • 10ml Ginger liqueur
  • 20ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 20ml Honey syrup*
  • 10ml Islay peated whisky
  • Ice
  • Candied ginger garnish


  • Add the first four ingredients into a shaker and shake until cooled
  • Strain into the rocks glass with a large ice cube 
  • Add the Islay peated whisky float
  • Garnish with candied ginger on a cocktail stick

*Honey syrup - simply mix 3 parts honey to one part water

What's the best Whisky for a Penicillin cocktail?

The Penicillin cocktail requires two types of Scotch whisky: a blended Scotch whisky for the base and an Islay single malt Scotch whisky for the float. Here are some recommendations for each:

Best Blended Scotch Whisky for the Penicillin Cocktail

  • Monkey Shoulder: Known for its smooth and rich flavour profile, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of Speyside single malts that offers a balanced mix of malt sweetness and a hint of spice, making it an excellent base for the Penicillin cocktail.
  • Famous Grouse: This is a versatile and accessible blended Scotch that provides a good balance of flavours with a slight hint of smoke and oak, ideal for mixed drinks like the Penicillin.
  • Johnnie Walker Black Label: With its subtle smokiness and complex blend of flavours, Johnnie Walker Black Label adds depth and character to the Penicillin cocktail without overpowering the other ingredients.

Best Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky for the Penicillin Cocktail

  • Laphroaig 10 Year Old: Known for its intense smoky and peaty flavour, Laphroaig 10 Year Old provides a strong, distinctive smokiness that adds a dramatic top note to the Penicillin cocktail.
  • Bowmore 12 Year Old: Is a balanced single malt featuring a harmonious blend of subtle smoky peat, sweet honey, vanilla, and citrus fruit flavours, with a smooth and lingering finish.
  • Ardbeg 10 Year Old: Another excellent choice from Islay, Ardbeg 10 Year Old is highly peated with a balanced profile of smoke, citrus, and vanilla, making it a great finishing touch for the Penicillin.

The Penicillin cocktail is a testament to modern mixology, offering a sophisticated and well-balanced drinking experience that appeals to a wide range of palates. Its intriguing history, carefully crafted recipe, essential ingredients, and versatile food pairings make it a standout choice for any cocktail enthusiast looking to explore the depths of contemporary cocktail culture.

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