A Rob Roy Cocktail is a delicious take on a classic Manhattan cocktail. The swap from American whiskey to Scotch may seem small but it transforms this sophisticated and simple drink.
What is A Rob Roy Drink?
A Rob Roy cocktail is a spirit-forward Scotch cocktail that is basic but delicious - and one that everyone should try at least once. The Rob Roy pairs Scotch whisky with sweet vermouth and a dash or two of bitters.
While the classic Manhattan cocktail dates back to the 1880s, it’s believed that the Rob Roy Drink made its first appearance more than a decade later, most likely around 1894.
It was first served at the Waldorf Astoria’s original location on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. And the cocktail was inspired by an operetta named “Rob Roy,” which was performed at a theatre nearby, The Herald Square Theatre. The operetta was loosely based on a Scottish folk hero named Rob Roy MacGregor who was a Robin Hood-like character.
And since this cocktail's emergence, it has become a highly popular bar order across the globe! In fact, it was this cocktail that was instrumental in introducing America to blended Scotch whisky.
Different ways of making a Rob Roy
Like the Manhattan, the Rob Roy Drink can be ordered and made "sweet", "dry", or "perfect". A standard Rob Roy is the sweet version, due to the sweet vermouth used to make it. But a "dry" Rob Roy is made by replacing the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. And a "perfect" Rob Roy is made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.
If you are a whiskey-lover then you need to check out our list of THE BEST WHISKEY TO DRINK STRAIGHT!
Rob Roy Drink Ingredients
There are just three ingredients in a Rob Roy Drink. And so due to its simplicity, each plays a pivotal role in the taste and balance of this drink. The ingredients you will need to make one are as follows:
- Scotch whiskey. Scotch is made from barley, commonly refined in Scotland, and it has a peaty flavor. This type of whiskey is commonly spelled without the “e” when referring to Scotch whisky. This is the traditional spelling in Scotland and helps to differentiate it from other whiskeys. For this cocktail recipe, you can use any variety of Scotch that you prefer best.
- Sweet vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine which means that it has liquor added to it. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet (usually red) and dry (usually white). For this recipe, we are making a traditional Rob Roy which requires any sweet red vermouth.
- Angostura or orange bitters. Angostura bitters are a little spicy and bitter. And orange bitters are more citrusy with notes of orange, cardamom, and nutmeg. You can use either to add depth and complexity to this cocktail recipe.
Traditionally a sweet Rob Roy is served in a stemmed glass with a cocktail cherry or a brandied cherry. But a lemon twist or a thin swatch of orange zest is also a great garnish option for this drink.
If you are feeling particularly fancy, and want to stick to true tradition, then a Luxardo Cherry is what you are looking for. Luxardo cherries are cocktail cherries that are extremely dark red in color, almost black looking. They have a more complex, fruity, and nutty flavor than a classic cocktail maraschino cherry.
How to Make a Rob Roy Drink
A Rob Roy is a simple cocktail that is easy to make in less than five minutes. You don't need any fancy bar equipment to make this drink. To make your own, follow the step-by-step instructions below or find a full, detailed recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Combine the scotch, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass.
Fill the glass with ice and allow it to chill for 30 seconds.
Strain into a coupe or cocktail serving glass. Garnish as desired and enjoy immediately.
Which Scotch is best for a Rob Roy Cocktail
The Scottish have been making whisky for at least 500 years. And they have carefully refined their craft over this time to produce a flavorful and complex whiskey. And like with any good spirit-forward cocktail, the Rob Roy is an opportunity to highlight the alcohol in the glass, not hide it.
You get many different types and brands of Scotch whiskey. And you can use any kind you like best for this recipe.
Just be sure to choose a bottle that will pair well with the herbal, bittersweet vermouth. And anything too heavily peated may overpower the vermouth and lead to an unbalanced drink.
So whether you choose a blended or single malt Scotch is up to each individual, but a blended whisky is the more common choice. You can learn about the differences below so you can decide which type of scotch you would like best to make your Rob Roy.
- Blended Scotch: Blended Scotch has a smooth flavor, similar to bourbon, but with more of a spicy finish. As its name suggests, it is made by blending two types of whiskey together. A blended Scotch combines barrel-aged malt whisky and grain whisky.
- Single Malt Scotch: Single Malt Scotch is usually a more expensive style of whiskey. ‘Single’ malt whisky is the product of an individual distillery. Malt whisky is made only from malted barley, in two or three copper pot stills, by a batch process.
Rob Roy Drink
- 1 serving glass
- 1 mixing glass
- 2 ounce scotch whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 3 dashes Angostura Bitters or orange bitters
- ice cubes
- Combine the scotch, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass.
- Fill the glass with ice and allow it to chill for 30 seconds.
- Strain into a coupe or cocktail serving glass. Garnish as desired and enjoy immediately.