What Alton Brown Says Makes A Penicillin Cocktail So Unique

Back in the early 2000s (when the world was freshly relieved that Y2K didn't happen), an Australian bartender at New York City's Milk & Honey created a cocktail he called the Penicillin. According to Liquor.com, bartender Sam Ross came up with the idea by riffing on another Milk & Honey signature cocktail called the Gold Rush, only this time, Ross used Scotch whisky (and the addition of ginger) instead of bourbon.

While there are many different types of whiskey, Scotch is known and loved for its smokiness. This may be the reason why Ross opted to use a smokier whiskey for his new cocktail. Penicillin (the cocktail) has similar notes to a whiskey sour, explains Liquor.com, as it incorporates lemon, honey, ginger, and whiskey, as it is also the base for the Gold Rush. However, there is something about the Penicillin that makes it really unique, and it has to do with what it's assembled with. One famous Penicillin fan is Alton Brown, who explains what makes it so special. 

A Hint of Peat Moss

According to the London Science Museum, when Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic, Penicillin, it was by accident. He'd left a petri dish of Staphylococcus bacteria out, and mold developed around it. While this was probably gross to discover, the mold prevented bacteria from growing, and that was when Dr. Fleming realized that it could fight bacteria. For this reason, the Penicillin cocktail may pay homage to Fleming's discovery in a tongue-in-cheek way with a special scotch floater. Alton Brown explains this further. 

On his YouTube channel, Brown explains that what makes a Penicillin cocktail so unique is that it uses two kinds of Scotch: A blended Scotch in the cocktail mixture itself, and then a peaty Islay Scotch is floated on top of the drink. A peaty Scotch has a mossy flavor and peat moss itself growing on mounds of dirt looks a little bit like mold. Was this Sam Ross' intention when he invented the drink? It's hard to know for sure, but it seems like a wink and a nod. Liquor.com notes that Ross' preference was to serve the drink without a straw so that it's sipped top-down and the peaty aromatics of the Islay scotch floater are present the entire time you're sipping.