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Penicillin Cocktail (Easy Recipe)

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.
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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!

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 (Easy Recipe)



Prep time





This classic penicillin recipe will fix you right up! The mixture of honey-ginger syrup, whisky, and scotch is spicy, smoky, and over-the-top!


  • For the Honey-Ginger Syrup:
  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup honey

  • 4 slices fresh ginger

  • For the Cocktail:
  • Ice cubes

  • 2 ounces blended Scotch whisky

  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

  • 3/4 ounce honey-ginger syrup

  • 1/4 ounce Islay single malt Scotch (recommended: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, or Ardbeg)

  • Lemon peel or candied ginger (optional, for garnish)


  • Make the honey-ginger syrup. Add the water, honey, and ginger to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer it for 10 minutes. Remove it from the heat, let it cool, and strain.
  • Add the blended Scotch whisky, lemon juice, and honey-ginger syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well for 25 seconds.
  • Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
  • Float the Islay Scotch by gently pouring it over the back of a spoon.
  • Garnish it with a lemon peel twist or candied ginger. Serve and enjoy!


  • Blended scotch recommendations: Johnnie Walker Black Label, Monkey Shoulder, or Famous Grouse
  • Islay single malt Scotch recommendation: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, or Ardbeg
  • Store honey-ginger syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Penicillin Cocktail

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Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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