There is not much history purported behind this drink and what it is absolutely incorrect, some claim this drink dates to 1922, however, drambuie was not even introduced into the united states until 1929 -1941 and there is no literature supporting this. Here is an early printing of drambuie:
Hobbies: Volume 38, Issue 8 by Otto C. Lightner, Pearl Ann Reeder, International Philatelic Association in 1933
“There are said to be about thirty-six different kinds of Scotch whiskeys and the rare Drambuie liqueur, distilled with honey. Mr. Morgan started this strange hobby when a friend presented him with a miniature bottle of White and Mackays …”
The drink itself appears some 20 years later in the same advertisements placed by drambuie themselves. Their campaign for Drambuie and the rusty nail ran from 1959 to 1962 as seen here in these publications:
US news & world report: Volume 46, Part 1 in 1959
Harper’s magazine: Volume 222 by Thomas Bucklin Wells, Lee Foster Hartman, Frederick Lewis Allen in 1960
Show: the magazine of the arts: Volume 1 in 1961
Time: Volume 79, Part 2 in 1962
All the advertisements read exactly the same thing as follows:
“Made with a base of finest Scotch whisky, Drambuie is truly a luxurious adventure. Originally the personal liqueur of Prince Charles Edward, Drambuie has been made in Scotland since 1745 from Bonnie Prince Charlie’s secret recipe. Rusty Nail, Dram of drambuie and Martin’s VVO Scotch over rocks in an old fashioned glass”
This drink was very likely created by drambuie, but the name is unclear. There are no specific references to a rusty nail in any print that would suggest that is where the drinks name derives from. However, it is worth noting that this drink does take on the color of a rusty nail when mixed.
This drink dates between 1958 – 1959 and contained at least as of then:
Stir these ingredients:
Scotch (Martin’s VVO “Very Very Old” Scotch, since discontinued)
Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with fresh ice cubes.