What Flavor Is Drambuie Liqueur?

Chances are, if you've ever visited a bar, then you've probably at least spied a bottle of Drambuie before. It's a classic staple, but for as quintessential a fixture as it may be, the average modern barfly might not be super familiar with its flavor. Drambuie is a spiced, whisky-based liqueur bottled at 40% ABV, and it's as punchy as it is shrouded in mystery. No one knows its carefully guarded recipe. So, what does it taste like?

According to the Drambuie website (which doesn't give much away), the liqueur is a combination of "aged Scotch whisky, rare Scottish heather honey, and aromatic herbs and spices." The Scotch base is infused with cloves and saffron, and some mixologists speculate that angelica root, rosemary, and fennel might be in the mix too, but no one knows for certain. Whatever the case, Drambuie artfully explores the interplay of sweet and spiced, like any good herbal liqueur (Underberg fans, rise up. We see you). The flavor may bear similarities to Falernum and Yellow Chartreuse, but the profile is totally unique. 

Drambuie is herbaceous without being botanical, and the Scotch base lends tasting notes that can't be replicated by other ingredients. At first sip, Drambuie is oaky with top notes of anise and orange peel. The deep, fiery Scotch makes itself known right away, giving into the honey, which together create a lush golden hue and round body. It makes a standout yet versatile ingredient in any mixology toolbelt.

Sweet-spiced with Scotchy depth

Per the lore, the elixir might have started as a medicinal tonic created by the Royal Apothecary for Scottish royal Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, who trusted daily Drambuie to keep him healthy. Or, maybe it's always been drunk for pleasure. After all, the name comes from the Scots Gaelic "An Dram Buidheach" meaning "The Drink that Satisfies." Either way, even if modern mixologists don't know exactly what Drambuie is, that doesn't mean they don't know how to use it. You can become adept at using this liquor, too.

The most obvious Drambuie cocktail is the Rusty Nail, a two-ingredient cocktail that Frank Sinatra loved. You could switch it up with NYC's Bar Goto's spinoff, the Rusty Ringo, which adds Calvados apple brandy. Use a few drops of sweet-spiced Drambuie to deepen your favorite go-tos, like a Drambuie Espresso Martini or Drambuie Tom Collins. It'd even be delicious in a spiced grapefruit-tequila Paloma.

The liqueur is also a star ingredient in the fizzy, fruity Kingston Club, which combines Drambuie, pineapple juice, lime juice, Fernet Italian liquer, Angostura bitters, and soda water (call it "sleazy tropical"). Want it darker? The Bukowski-esque Widowmaker combines Drambuie, Maker's Mark, Cutty Sark, lemon, and orange juice. For new fans wanting to try a small sample, you could add Drambuie to a classic Scotch and Soda highball. Even just a neo-classic "Dram & ginger" is an acceptable order (and frankly pretty cool thing to ask for at your local dive).