The Rob Roy cocktail, sometimes also called a Scotch Manhattan, follows the same formula as the famous drink from New York. There's one small yet effective difference, though: the recipe replaces Bourbon or Rye with Scotch Whisky.
Quick Facts Rob Roy Cocktail
- Method: stirred
- Flavor profile: smoky, boozy, dry
- How to serve it: straight up
- Glassware: coupe glass or Nick and Nora glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 25,5% ABV, 24 grams of alcohol per serving
The drink 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.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Bar spoon
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 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.2 oz Blended Scotch Whisky, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1 dash Angostura bitters, 1 dash Peychaud's bitters
- Stir until the drink is well-chilled, and then strain into a Coupe or Nick & Nora glass.
- Garnish with a speared Maraschino cherry.1 Maraschino cherry
The list of ingredients for the Rob Roy recipe is almost identical to the Manhattan but made with Scotch instead of Rye or Bourbon. So to make this classy booze-forward drink, you'll need:
- Scotch Whisky: Whisky from Scotland is known for its intensely peaty flavors, but you won't take it too far in a Rob Roy. The best option here is a Blended Scotch with a more restrained flavor profile. Read our recommendations below for more.
- Vermouth: you need the sweet, red version of this fortified wine for this recipe. Our favorite for the Rob Roy Cocktail is Cocchi Storico Vermouth Di Torino.
- Angostura and/or Peychaud's bitters: We like to use both Angostura and Peychaud's bitters for that extra bit of complexity. If you only have one at home, that's also fine.
- Maraschino cherry: The sweet, rich flavor of the preserved cherries from the Dalmatian Coast are a beautiful addition to the drink. Make sure to get the real ones, not the bright red, artificial cocktail cherries. Read our recommendations below for better alternatives.
It looks pretty easy and straightforward it is. Still, selecting the whisky is key and can be tricky.
Best Scotch for the Rob Roy cocktail
Blended Scotch is the best choice for this whiskey cocktail because it usually is not overly peaty and affordable. Also, don't go for a whisky from the Islay region, known to produce intensely smoky spirits.
In a Rob Roy, this smoky taste won't work too well. It can quickly overpower the delicate flavors of the sweet vermouth. Hence, you want something that's smooth and leaves room for the herbs and spices to shine through.
Blended Scotch is made by combining aged malt whisky with aged grain whisky. The taste is typically smooth and well-rounded - just want we want.
Another common choice is Single Malt Scotch. They are produced in one distillery and are usually a bit more expensive. If you have a preferred bottle when it comes to Single Malts, give it a try in a Rob Roy. Although, also here, I don't recommend Islay Scotch for the same reason described above.
Angostura or Peychaud bitters in the Rob Roy
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 common. I prefer a combination of both: one dash of Angostura bitters and one of Peychaud's bitters. If you want to use only one, double the amount accordingly.
Either way, in the end, the most important thing is that you use bitters and don't omit them. They're essential to achieve the right balance and complexity in this drink.
If you're unsure about the differences, read our article about Angostura bitters vs. Peychaud's bitters.
The traditional 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.
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. Alternatively, consider using Amarena cherries. They have a similar sweet but natural flavor, are of high quality, and are more affordable.
As mentioned above, don't go for the fake Maraschino cherries - they don't add anything to the drink other than an unpleasant candy flavor.
History of the Rob Roy cocktail
Supposedly, the Rob Roy first came up 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, in turn, goes back to a Scottish folk hero called Rob Roy. However, similar concoctions must have existed before. Only there hadn't been a name for them.
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.
The Rob Roy is in line with many vintage whisky drinks from the early era of cocktails and mixology. Apart from the Manhattan, here are some more worth trying: