The direct, clean, and unbiased transduction of molecular recognition into a readable and reproducible response is the biggest challenge associated to the use of synthetic receptors in sensing. All possible solutions demand the mastering of molecular recognition at the solid–liquid interface as prerequisite. The socially relevant issue of screening amine-based illicit and designer drugs is addressed by nanomechanical recognition at the silicon–water interface. The methylamino moieties of different drugs are all first recognized by a single cavitand receptor through a synergistic set of weak interactions. The peculiar recognition ability of the cavitand is then transferred with high fidelity and robustness on silicon microcantilevers and harnessed to realize a nanomechanical device for label-free detection of these drugs in water.