20 May 2011

Rob Roy Cocktail

The classic cocktails are a lot of fun to make, but ordering them usually results in disaster. Unless it's a bar that cares about mixology history, you're likely to get something very strange. If it's purple and involves Sake and Chambord, don't call it a Martini. If you order a Sidecar and the bartender reaches for a can of Dr. Pepper, walk away.

The Rob Roy hails from New York in 1890, and is a variation on the popular Manhattan cocktail that was only 20 years old at the time. Whereas the Manhattan calls for rye whiskey or Bourbon, the Rob Roy incorporates Scotch as the primary spirit. The two drinks end up very different. A Manhattan is smooth and even a little sweet. A Rob Roy is bone dry and almost medicinal. The Scotch really amps up the aromas and flavors of the vermouths, and the whole thing just smells old, like opening up a chest that hasn't been touched in fifty years, or walking into a building that has lots of wood paneling, some cigarette smoke permanently bound to the walls, and the lingering presence of old products like St. John's Bay Rum aftershave or Vitalis hair tonic.

The Perfect Rob Roy Cocktail
1½ oz. Blended Scotch Whisky
¼ oz. White Vermouth
¼ oz. Red Vermouth
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Maraschino Cherry

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the cherry or a strip of lemon peel. I used Black Bottle Scotch for this--please don't use your good single malts. A blended whisky like Dewar's White Label is great for this drink (and appropriate, since the cocktail was pushed by the recent arrival of Dewar's in New York). This version is "perfect" because it incorporates both sweet red and dry white vermouth. The standard Rob Roy just uses red, a dry one just uses the white, but I think you get a more balanced beverage with both.

I'd suggest this one on its own for an afternoon cocktail or as an after dinner beverage. It's got such a strong flavor that you're likely to mess up your palate for food or wine during dinner.

Thanks to Bella who found the scent of the drink fascinating but was not permitted to sample it during her modeling duties.


fredric koeppel said...

good dog.

Benito said...


We've both got a soft spot for the rescue pups, and Bella is 80 pounds of happiness in a 40 pound bag. Though she's still growing...


Paul M. Jones said...

"80 pounds of happiness in a 40 pound bag" -- exactly.

Benito said...


Given her mass/volume issue, let's call her a white dwarf. ;)


Thomas said...

Back in the days when 18 was the legal age in NY City, I went to the neighborhood bar to celebrate my turning 18 (had already been served there since 16, but that's not this story).

I sought something different; Joe, the bartender, said he would fix me up with something.

The Rob Roys went down easy--too easy. After about five or six, I lost track of time as well as my limbs.

Haven't had a Rob Roy since, and that was quite a while ago.

Benito said...


I can imagine that left quite an impression on you. I know people who have written off entire categories of spirits for similar reasons.


Wife said...

Hi Benito:

I'm so glad you created this blog. I'm going to try one of your recommendations and will keep in touch to ask a few questions.