I know that you’re looking at the name of this drink and saying “I know of no such classic cocktail,” and you are correct because there isn’t one with that particular name. There is, however, a classic called the Penicillin, about which I’ve written two blog posts because it happens to be one of my favorites. It’s considered a modern day classic because it was first developed by Sam Ross of Milk and Honey and Attaboy fame, both renowned cocktail bars in NYC, and it now appears on drink menus all over the world. The Penicillin has blended Scotch whisky as its base combined with honey syrup, ginger, and lemon juice, all topped with a smoky Laphraoig float. It’s a cocktail that makes you feel as if it can cure anything that ails you. If I’m out at a bar for the night, I love closing things out with a Penicillin as my last drink. It makes me feel as though some kind of healing has taken place.
As most of you know, I work at Cooper River Distillers right here in Camden, NJ as a sales rep and brand ambassador, and I tend bar there on the weekends. We are currently barrel aging my Parallel Tracks cocktail, a riff on a Negroni, and are planning a release party on Sunday, October 22nd that’s centered around classic cocktails, reimagined and reworked with our products as the ingredients. The event is called Cocktail Club. If you’re local, mark your calendars! While working the bar this past Saturday with Andrew Countryman, I became intrigued with the idea of creating a Penicillin riff for our Cocktail Club event with only our products. My main concern was how to replicate the smokiness of the float, but Andrew reminded me that our spiced rum is aged over smoked applewood chips and that it might make an interesting substitute. For the base of the cocktail we used our most recent single run series whiskey, distilled from Chief, a pale ale made locally at Tonewood Brewery in Oaklyn, NJ. Our single run series whiskies start with a batch of beer in kegs that local brewers are unhappy with in one way or another. We then double distill that and age it in used barrels for anywhere from 6 months to 1-2 years, depending on the barrel size. The outcome is amazing, especially when you taste the whiskey side by side with the beer. In this particular case, the hoppiness of the Chief beer created beautiful floral notes in the whiskey. We added the traditional honey ginger syrup and lemon to the drink and then floated the spiced rum on top, bumping up the amount to a half ounce to create more of a smoky presence. The end result was a cocktail that was a bit more subdued in nature than a traditional Penicillin, but that also had all the components in place: a malt whiskey base, the soothing honey/ginger/lemon combo in the middle, and the smoky float on top. I was pleased with it and it was both a challenging and fun process to figure it out using ingredients that were made right there at the distillery.
The Local Healer
Add all the ingredients except the spiced rum to a shaker and shaker with ice until very cold. Pour over fresh cubes in a old fashioned glass. Float the Driftwood Dreams rum on top using the back of a bar spoon. Garnish with a piece of candied or fresh ginger. Enjoy!