Sam Ross’ Penicillin cocktail is a smoky modern classic

Sam Ross is perhaps Australia’s most famous bartending export. He’s the guy responsible not only for this Penicillin cocktail, but for a few other drinks that are today made around the world (like the moreish Paper Plane).

The Penicillin dates to 2005, when Ross — who at the time was working at the seminal New York bar, Milk & Honey — began experimenting with some Compass Box whiskies. He has said he was riffing on a Gold Rush cocktail, using the Compass Box Asyla as the base of the drink; a little of that company’s Islay whisky, the Peat Monster, drizzled on top made the drink pop.

It’s also what made the drink stand apart from others, because in 2005 it was still relatively uncommon for bartenders to employ pricey malt whisky in their cocktails.

The drink is now deservedly known as a modern classic, one that you can find on the menus of bars across the globe.

These days you’ll find Ross at Attaboy in New York, the bar he owns with fellow Milk & Honey alum Michael McIllroy and which occupies the same small space that Milk & Honey did; you might also catch him at one of their other bars, Diamond Reef in Brooklyn, or Attaboy Nashville.

Penicillin Cocktail

Penicillin Cocktail

The Penicillin cocktail is the work of Australian expat bartender, Sam Ross, and famed for its use of smoky, Islay whisky.


  • 60ml blended malt whisky
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 20ml honey & ginger syrup
  • 10ml peated whisky


    Shake all ingredients except the peated whisky with ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over good ice. Float the peated whisky on top. Garnish with a candied piece of ginger if handy.


For the honey and ginger syrup mix equal parts ginger juice and honey.