Beverages, Recipes

Penicillin Cocktail (Easy Recipe) – Insanely Good

This penicillin cocktail is just what the doctor ordered! Featuring scotch with a twist of lemon and honey-ginger syrup, it cures what ails you. 

Tart, spiced, sweet, and peaty, it’s a well-balanced drink. 

Iced penicillin cocktail on a glass garnished with candied ginger.

If you’re a fan of scotch, you’ll love this modern classic libation. It’s a sophisticated sipper you don’t want to miss!


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What Is a Penicillin Cocktail? 

The Penicillin cocktail is like the scotch version of a whiskey sour. The name itself sounds like an old-time tipple, but it’s actually a modern beverage.

Sam Ross of New York’s Milk & Honey bar created this cocktail in the early 2000s. He based it on the bourbon-based gold rush, which has honey and lemon.

Nixing the bourbon, he opted for blended scotch whisky. For the finishing touch, a floater of single malt scotch tops it off.

Ice cold penicillin cocktail on a glass garnished with candied ginger and stainless jigger beside.

What Does a Penicillin Cocktail Taste Like?

The penicillin is smoky, spiced, citrusy, and slightly sweet.

Many compare it to a whiskey sour. It blends citrus with sweetness, providing a complementary contrast to the deep notes of the scotch. 

The honey is not overpowering but well-rounded. The fresh lemon juice adds a delightfully citrusy element to brighten up the smoky liquor.

With big peaty notes, though, you need an equally strong contender: ginger. The pungent spiciness makes it exhilarating.

All the flavors create a balanced, sophisticated, and refined-tasting drink.


What makes the penicillin extra special is the homemade honey-ginger simple syrup. It only calls for three ingredients and truly elevates this drink. 

Also, be sure to use quality ingredients. You’ll taste the difference!

Here’s the list of everything you need:

  • Honey-Ginger Syrup – Make it homemade with water, honey, and fresh ginger. You can also use store-bought if you prefer.
  • Ice – For serving over the rocks.
  • Blended Scotch Whisky – The base of the cocktail! Choose a quality brand with a flavor profile that pairs well with ginger and lemon.
  • Lemon Juice – Fresh is best! Skip the bottled stuff. It has off-flavors that will reduce the quality of this cocktail. 
  • Islay Single Malt Scotch – For the floating shot! I recommend using Laphroaig, Lagavulin, or Ardbeg. 
  • Lemon peel – A classy garnish for a sophisticated sipper. 
  • Candied Ginger – Candied ginger is like icing on the cake! It’s the ideal garnish for this ginger-forward cocktail.
A glass of penicillin cocktail on the rocks garnished with candied ginger on skewers.

How to Make a Penicillin Cocktail

You don’t have to be a professional mixologist to make this drink. All you need is a cocktail shaker and these simple steps:


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1. Fill a cocktail shaker. Pack a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the blended scotch whisky, lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup. Shake it well, for about 25 seconds.

2. Strain the cocktail. Strain it into a rocks glass filled with ice.

3. Float the Islay scotch. Gently pour it over the back of a spoon over the cocktail.

4. Garnish and serve. Add a lemon peel twist or candied ginger if desired. Serve it and sip!

How to Make Honey Syrup 

Like regular simple syrup, honey syrup is easy to make. The main difference is you use honey instead of granulated sugar. The rest of the process is the same. 

Here’s how to make it:

1. Combine honey and water. In a small saucepan, add equal parts honey and water. Heat it over medium heat.

2. Stir. Continue to stir the mixture until the honey dissolves, about 1-2 minutes. Do not simmer the mixture! 

3. Cool. Let the honey syrup cool. Transfer it to an air-tight container and refrigerate it for up to 1 month.

When to Serve a Penicillin Cocktail 

What is the best time to serve a penicillin cocktail? About 5 o’clock! 

You can serve this cocktail whenever you’re ready for a libation. Here are my favorite times to drink one:

  • Happy hour
  • Cocktail hour
  • Brunch
  • After dinner
  • Parties
Penicillin Cocktail