The Rob Roy cocktail is closely related to the Manhattan cocktail. That's also the reason why it's sometimes called a Scotch Manhattan.
The cocktail is one of the few classic cocktails made with Scotch. And let me tell you, the Rob Roy is a beautiful way to imbibe a fine Scotch Whisky.
Ingredients of a Rob Roy
The Rob Roy cocktail is a fantastic booze-forward cocktail made from only three ingredients. The template is almost identical to the Manhattan but made with Scotch instead of Rye or Bourbon. So, to make a delicious Rob Roy, you'll need:
- Scotch Whiskey
- Sweet Vermouth
- Angostura and/or Peychaud's bitters
- Maraschino cherry
It looks pretty easy and straightforward it is. Still, selecting the right products can be tricky.
Which Scotch in a Rob Roy?
Scotch Whisky is quite diverse and has lots of different styles and types. And the first thing that comes to mind when hearing Scotch might be a heavily peated taste.
In a Rob Roy, this smoky taste won't work too well, though. It can quickly overpower the delicate flavors of the Sweet Vermouth. So, the usual choice when it comes to stirring a Rob Roy is a Blended Scotch.
Blended Scotch is made by combining aged malt Whiskey with aged grain Whiskey. The taste is typically smooth and well-rounded.
So, a fine Blended Scotch works well with the sweetness and herbal taste coming from the Vermouth. Another possible choice is using a Scotch Single Malt Whiskey.
Single Malt Whiskies are produced from one distillery and are usually a bit more expensive than other options. If you have a preferred bottle when it comes to Single Malts, you should give it a try in a Rob Roy.
Sweet Vermouth in the Rob Roy Cocktail
Vermouth is a fortified wine infused with a mixture of herbs, roots, rinds, and other botanicals. It comes in two different types, Sweet Vermouth (red) and dry Vermouth (white).
- Sweet Vermouth: The red version of Vermouth has a sweet taste combined with bitter herbal notes. It's part of many classic cocktails like the Negroni, Americano, Boulevardier, and the Hanky Panky.
- Dry Vermouth: As the name indicated, the white and dry Vermouth is less sweet. It's commonly used to make various types of Martini cocktails like the Classic Martini, Dirty Martini, or Dill-pickle Martini.
One thing you should remember when working with Vermouth: Once you have opened a bottle, store it in the fridge. Otherwise, the fortified wine will lose its beautiful flavors and aroma too quickly.
Kept in the fridge, Vermouth is good to use for up to three months.
Angostura bitters or Peychaud bitters
Traditionally a Rob Roy is made with Angostura bitters. But David Embury, attorney and famed mixologist, mentioned in his book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks that Peychaud's bitters are actually a better choice. He wrote:
"Peychaud, somehow, seems to blend better than Angostura with Scotch."
Today, both versions are quite common. I prefer a combination of both, using one dash of Angostura bitters and one dash of Peychaud's bitters.
If you're unsure about the differences, read this article about Angostura bitters vs. Peychaud's bitters.
In the end, the most important thing is that you actually use bitters and don't omit them. They're absolutely essential in this drink to get the right balance and complexity.
The best way to garnish a Rob Roy is with a Maraschino cherry. These luscious and dark red cherries are full of flavor, sweet, and a little almondy.
However, genuine Maraschino cherries are expensive. So, if you can't or don't want to get them, make them at home with our recipe for homemade Maraschino cherries.
History of the Rob Roy cocktail
Supposedly, the Rob Roy first was created in the 1890s, around ten years after the invention of the Manhattan cocktail.
A bartender at the renowned Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City is said to have thought up this variant of the Manhattan. -In 1894, to be precise.
He named his creation after an Operetta written by Reginald de Koven, which itself goes back to a Scottish folk hero called Rob Roy.
However, most likely, it had been just the first time a Scotch-based Manhattan was actually called a Rob Roy. Similar concoctions have been there almost a decade before.
A bar guide from the 1880s published by Charlie Paul included one of the first-ever written Manhattan recipes. In this recipe, the drink is not made with Rye but Scotch.
That was probably not done purposefully but due to the fact that it was a London bar guide and Scotch was readily available in England.
- 2 oz Blended Scotch Whisky
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 dash Peychaud's bitters
- 1 Maraschino cherry
- Add Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, and both bitters into a mixing glass filled with ice.
- Stir until the drink is well-chilled, and then strain into a Coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
- Garnish with a speared Maraschino cherry.