Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Rob Roy Cocktail

Rob Roy Cocktail

Even non-scotch drinkers will enjoy this Manhattan variant
   
A scotch-based cocktail? Aye!

The Rob Roy dates back to the 19th century. And it has aged well – much like its signature ingredient.

The drink probably was named after a popular operetta. Which is appropriate, because you’ll soon be singing its praises.



Rob Roy Cocktail

Recipe: The Rob Roy Cocktail

Scotch whiskey (usually spelled whisky) has a distinct flavor, one that’s often smoky and peaty. Because it tends to be sharper and more assertive than American bourbon or rye, scotch is an acquired taste for some.

With its distinct flavor profile, scotch is most often savored neat or over ice. But it does grace a few cocktails – including the one we discuss today.

As noted above, the Rob Roy is essentially a Manhattan Cocktail made with scotch. Preferably blended scotch, as we explain in the Notes.

Originally, this drink was made with equal parts of scotch and red (sweet) vermouth. Over the years, though, the drink became much drier. Today the standard formula is 2 parts scotch to 1 part red vermouth. If you want an even drier drink, try 2½ parts scotch to 1 part red vermouth.

This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces blended scotch whisky (see Notes)
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Italian red vermouth)
  • 1 to 2 dashes bitters (Angostura are traditional, but Peychaud’s work better – see Notes)
  • maraschino cherry for garnish (optional; may substitute lemon twist)
Procedure
  1. Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until well chilled (about 30 seconds).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Add garnish, if you wish, and serve.
Rob Roy Cocktail

Notes
  • Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces air bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy. (That doesn’t matter when some of the ingredients are opaque – think citrus juice.)
  • But shake anyway if that’s your preference. We often do so ourselves.
  • Although Angostura bitters are traditional in this drink, some people leave them out. And we can see why – their flavor clashes a bit with scotch. 
  • But David Embury (a renowned drinks expert from the 1940s and 50s) came up with an even better idea: Substitute Peychaud’s (a brand of bitters made in New Orleans) for Angostura. That’s how we make our Rob Roy, and we highly recommend it.
  • A maraschino cherry is the traditional garnish for this drink, and it works well. A lemon twist is really good too, however.
  • Scotch whisky starts out as either single malt (made at a single distillery from only water and malted barley) or single grain (made at a single distillery, but sometimes with other grains in addition to barley – paradoxical, we know). 
  • If you mix various batches of scotch together, you have blended scotch whisky. There are three kinds of blends: Blended malt (using 2 or more single malts from different distilleries), blended grain (using 2 or more single-grain whiskies from different distilleries), and blended scotch (using one or more single-malt scotches along with one or more single-grain scotches). 
  • Scotch aficionados quiver with pleasure at the thought of imbibing a good (and expensive!) single-malt scotch. But when it comes to cocktails, you really want to use a blended scotch. 
  • And most of the scotch you’ll find in liquor stores is blended scotch. Indeed, about 90% of the whisky produced in Scotland is blended scotch. 
  • Blended scotch works well in cocktails (the flavor is mellower). And it’s usually much cheaper than single malt.
  • Many brands of blended scotch whisky are available, and any would work fine in a Rob Roy. We suggest Dewar’s simply because it’s a huge seller in the US (and it may be the scotch that was used in the original Rob Roy, as discussed below). But there are plenty of other good blends around, including Ballantine’s, Chivas Regal, Cutty Sark, J&B, and Johnnie Walker.
  • The Rob Roy Cocktail was created at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, probably during the 1890s. Popular legend says the drink was named to honor the then-popular operetta Rob Roy, by Reginald De Koven and Harry B. Smith.
  • The operetta was based on Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel of the same name. A key figure in that novel is Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish folk hero who lived from 1671 until 1734.
  • A cocktail bearing the name of a Scottish hero needs to use scotch whisky, of course. And around the time the cocktail was created, Dewar’s White Label Scotch arrived on the US market. (This is the full name of the blended scotch that most of us just call Dewar’s. But the Dewar’s brand also includes several other bottlings of blended scotch). 
  • Dewar’s scotch quickly became popular in the US. And although no one knows if it was the scotch first used in the Rob Roy Cocktail, that’s a reasonable assumption.
  • Care to try a variation on the Rob Roy Cocktail? Substitute orange bitters for Peychaud’s or Angostura, and you have the Highland Cocktail (sometimes called the Highland Fling). Or add a dash of Drambuie, and you have the Bobbie Burns. Both are good drinks.
Rob Roy Cocktail

The Drink that Never Sleeps

“Who knew The Manhattan Cocktail was so prolific?” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Here we are, enjoying another of its progeny.”

“Well, New York City is notorious as a den of iniquity,” I said. “And Manhattan is its prime borough.”

“Yup, and we’ve been riffing on its cocktail namesake all year,” said Mrs K R. “In January we did The Fanciulli Cocktail, which is basically a Manhattan made with Fernet-Branca.”

“Then in February we did The Hanky Panky,” I said. “Also made with Fernet-Branca, but with gin instead of the bourbon or rye you usually find in a Manhattan. That one is essentially a sweet Martini, but its flavor is very similar to a Manhattan.”

“And of course last month we did the Blackthorn Cocktail,” said Mrs K R. “Which is basically a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey.”

“Hey, your glass looks empty,” I said. “Can I interest you in another Rob Roy?”

“In a New York minute,” said Mrs K R.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Manhattan Cocktail
The Fanciulli Cocktai
The Hanky Panky Cocktail
Blackthorn Cocktail Martini Cocktail
Or check out the index for more

78 comments:

  1. My husband loves a good Manhattan every once in awhile. I have a feeling he would love this drink.

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    1. Hi Pam, bet he would like this! It's a nice variation on the classic Manhattan. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. As always your cocktail recipes tempt me to move on from drinking only wine and an occasional beer!

    As it happens, I used your boilerplate text about kosher salt in a comment on another blog recently. The blogger gave a recipe that called for kosher salt, and some smart-alec commented that it wasn't a kosher recipe so it shouldn't use kosher salt. I was quite polite, explained that kosher salt was often preferred, and quoted you.

    link: http://pamsmidwestkitchenkorner.blogspot.com/2017/04/skinny-saucy-chicken-parmesan.html

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Mae, sorry about the temptation thing. :-) And thanks for spreading the word about kosher salt -- it's of course used to kosher meat, which I assume is how it got its name. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. As you might imagine I've never tried this before but it sure looks pretty. One of these days I'll have to have you and the Mrs. over. You can show me how to create some of these marvelous looking drinks and I'll provide the food.

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    1. Hi Vicki, easy enough to create the drinks -- just follow the recipes! :D This is a good one -- a fun way to use scotch. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I love scotch and I LOVE drinks garnished with maraschino cherries--it reminds me of drinking Shirley Temples as a kid. I'll have to try this!

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    1. Hi Kelsie, maraschino cherries have fun color, don't they? Although this most definitely is not a kiddie cocktail! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. What a gorgeous and elegant drink. When you say dry do you mean it is not as sweet? Love the color. Take care!

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    1. Hi Cheri, yes, in cocktails, "dry" means less sweet. Still wet enough to drink, though. :D Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I am a Peychaud girl so would reach for that bitter but would love to try this cocktail. I am also a single-malt scotch gal. For me, if it's not single-malt scotch it's just not scotch, in my books but to each his own ;-) Thought I would share one I had in a bar recently...if you liek peat: Laphroaig, green Chartreuse, lime, simple sirup, foamer, thyme. Amazing!

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    1. Hi Evelyne, you certainly could use a single malt, and it'd be good. I just think that for cocktails, blended scotch has a flavor that plays better with the other ingredients. And I love Chartreuse, so any drink that uses it is a winner. That does sound amazing! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I'm always amazed at the history of these classic drinks! Thank you for sharing John!

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    1. Hi Deb, it's really the history of cocktails (and their good looks) that got us interested. We were reading about cocktails for years before we began mixing them! Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Well this is interesting...just a couple of days ago some friends were talking about the Rob Roy. They were both big Scotch drinkers so they were arguing about what type of Scotch to use. Not having a clue as to what a Rob Roy was, I just listened. Now I read it from the expert. I'll have to make this for them the next time we get together. I used to drink Scotch all of the time so this is one I should enjoy as well. Thanks John!

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    1. Hi MJ, you can really use any kind of scotch in this drink, but we really prefer blended -- mainly because we think its flavor goes better with the other ingredients. Plus some of the nuances of a really good single malt are lost in cocktails. At least we think! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. You are so witty John! I love reading your posts and I swear I'd drink anything you put in front of me - even this scotch based drink. Everything sounds great, as does this beautiful creation. Thanks for the weekly grin!

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    1. Hi Tricia, we do enjoy writing those endings (and yes, it's a collaborative effort). Thanks for the comment.

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  10. How interesting, John! I work with the people who have Whisky Live Australia (a massive event showcasing whiskies from around the globe). My Peter does all the tasting, while I take photographs. Peter is now quite the whisky connoisseur and enjoys a good peaty Scotched. Have you tried rubbing a little onto your wrist and sniffing it?

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    1. Hi Liz, I haven't tried rubbing it into my wrist, but it makes sense that it's a good way to bloom the aroma. And then I'd get to lick my wrist! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I love Manhattan's and Rob Roy's too! Your drink looks great and I'm sure it goes down smoothly! Had no idea it's connected with an operetta! I learned something new today! Good post, thanks!

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    1. Hi Pam, yes, it is rather smooth. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Elegant, a real beauty... and I bet quite tasty!!! Cheers!

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    1. Hi Denise, it IS really tasty! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I have never in my life had scotch before! Ever. And honestly, not sure I ever would. But shoot, I could impress the pant off of any scotch drinker if I made this for them!

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    1. Hi GiGi, you're such a light drinker (or so I gather), I'd just stick to wine. But yes, you'd certainly impress a scotch drinker if you made this! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. When I am in Berlin in a couple of weeks , I will order a Rob Roy cocktail , hopefully they know how to make them. I have been known to take sips from my husband's scotch.

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    1. Hi Gerlinde, if they don't know how to make it, just look up this post on your phone and tell them how. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Who knew there were all these variation of the Manhattan?! This was my MIL's favorite cocktail---I would have loved to try out your Rob Roy on her :)

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    1. Hi Liz, she would have liked it! This has super flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. After the week I have been having, can you please make mine a double..! I will be right over to join you and Mrs. Riff.

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    1. Hi Bobbi, a double coming up! And if your week has been that bad, you might need another after that. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Am not much of a cocktail person but that looks stunning! I could use a glass now or two lol

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    1. Hi Kankana, one of the neat things about cocktails is even if you don't like them, they're fun to look at! Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Oh my husband would love this cocktail.he's not much of a cocktail person but I think he will love it.

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    1. Hi Peachy, I'll bet he will! Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Hi, John....This looks beautiful and brings back memories of many years ago when dad would make this for my mom before the set off for the barn dance :) Thanks for sharing this old timer :) Pat

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    1. Hi Pat, perfect pre-barn dance drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. As always, your cocktail creations are fantastic!

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  21. A little history lesson and a beautiful cocktail to boot! I'd give this a sip, but that's about all I could muster. I love that it's served in a martini glass.
    I had to buy maraschino cherries with stems for a job a few years back, it worked out to about $1 a piece!

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    1. Hi Eva, it's actually hard to find maraschino cherries with stems! Not every supermarket carries them these days -- but they do dress up a drink, don't they? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Pinned! What a beautiful looking drink. And thanks for the tips about shaking and don't shake.

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    1. Hi Lea Ann, isn't this pretty? And SO tasty! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I'm not that keen on whisky but I bet that cherry takes the edge off of it!

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    1. Hi Carolyn, the cherry and the sweet vermouth both temper the whisky. This is a nice drink, although I know you prefer gin. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Sweet or dry, he Rob Roy is my absolute favorite drink. (A Manhattan is a very close second.) So glad it seems all the "old-fashioned" drinks -- including the Old Fashioned -- are in vogue!

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    1. Hi Rosemary, isn't this a good one? You can use scotch in an Old Fashioned, too -- a nice variation on bourbon. Thanks for the comment.

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  25. My husband drinks a classic Manhattan every night ~ I can't wait to surprise him with this!

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    1. Hi Sue, this will be a change for him! We really like the classic Manhattan, and this is a nice change of pace. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  26. This was interesting, a lot of new things to learn. And if you're going to have a drink, why not an elegant one?
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Hi Amalia, always fun to have an elegant drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Of course I love this cocktail. Though on another subject: an earlier commentator mentioned getting snark about kosher salt. I've gotten the same kind of comments before. She handled it better than I. I snarked right back... GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, good drink, huh? And yes, Mae did handle that snarky comment well! Thanks for the comment.

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  28. This cocktail looks so sophisticated. One I would happily drink to unwind.

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    1. Hi Laura, anything in a cocktail glass is sophisticated! Or at least that's what I tell myself. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Loved hearing the background of this drink and you have NO idea how badly I need one of these right now! Ok...TWO.

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    1. Hi Ashley, two is a good number. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Living in NYC, I really should make Manhattan cocktail more often. And this Scotch variation sounds very interesting and I'll definitely need one around this time tomorrow. Thanks for sharing John!

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    1. Hi Yi, the Manhattan is a great cocktail -- and the Rob Roy is a fun variation. And tomorrow will be here soon. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Only recently I discord cocktails using whisky...and so far like it..thanks for this recipe John...it sure looks great...I will definitely give this a try.
    I hope you are having a fantastic week :)

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    1. Hi Juliana, you have a lot of happy tasting ahead of you. You can start with this. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. John, your cocktails are always so cool. Who can say NO to an elegant looking drink like this. Oh how wish I could have a glass of this beauty. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Hi Anu,, it's the weekend, so time for one of these! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I have to admit that scotch-based cocktails are not the first things I order on a menu. I often fear they'll be too boozy and strong. But made right with balance, they really are incredible. Scotch adds a smoky depth you can't get elsewhere.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, scotch is definitely a tricky ingredient in cocktails, isn't it? Definitely needs to be balanced, but when it is, it's really good. Thanks for the comment.

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  34. This drink looks really elegant... I like the pictures as usual :).

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    1. Hi Amira, it's a nice looking drink, isn't it? Tasty, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Thanks so much for this post! I love liquor and love learning about them. Can't say I'm a scotch fan. More a fan of American whiskey.

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    1. Hi Jeff, we prefer bourbon and rye too. But this is a drink that any American whiskey fan would enjoy! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. As you may know, I'm a Scotch lover and a great admirer of the Manhattan cocktail, so this is right up my alley. In fact, I may have a tipple tonight...

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    1. Hi Frank, you'll LOVE this! Enjoy. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Isn't Rob Roy a cowboy? Well, I might be naive but this cocktail is pure elegance and more suited for classy get togethers than cow herding barbecues. Very pretty John 8)

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    1. Hi Merryn, OK, I've thought about this, but the only cowboy reference I can think of is Roy Rogers. And I have no idea what he used to drink! Obviously, much research is needed. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  38. Shut the front door! This is a stunning cocktail. We love a good cocktail at our house and this on the list. Thanks!

    Velva-Tomatoes on the Vine

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    1. Hi Velva, isn't this pretty? And it's really tasty -- the best part!:-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I always learn something new about cocktails on your blog. And as usual the photos are stunning!

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    1. Hi Ansh, lots to learn about with cocktails! A delish subject. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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