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Rob Roy Cocktail - How To Mix The Perfect Scotch Manhattan

Rob Roy cocktail with cherry garnish.

Rob Roy Brings Scotch To Manhattan

The Rob Roy cocktail, a.k.a the Scotch Manhattan, is a drink mixed with Scotch whisky, vermouth and bitters. Like its cocktail cousin, both drinks can be made sweet, dry or perfect depending on the type of vermouth(s) used. A perfect Rob Roy contains equal parts of both sweet and dry vermouth.

Unlike the Manhattan whose traditional rye often gets replaced with Canadian or bourbon whisk(e)ys, the Rob Roy cocktail is spirited solely with Scotch as its base. Fitting for the Scotsman who inspired the drink.

History Of The Rob Roy Cocktail

Birth Of A Beverage

A bartender at the Waldorf Astoria hotel is said to have created the drink recipe in 1894 about two decades after its New York neighbor’s namesake. This was to honor the opening of the theatrical musical Rob Roy composed by Reginald De Koven whose historical operetta was based on the life of the folk hero often referred to as the Scottish Robin Hood, Robert Roy MacGregor (March 7, 1671 - December 28, 1734). Thus the name.

Also In History

As a side note, this all happens to coincide around a bit of Scotch whisky history as well. Dewar’s distillery in Scotland received a bunch of free publicity and a subsequent flood of orders from America after steel magnate Andrew Carnegie of Scottish decent sent a barrel of Dewar’s Scotch to President Benjamin Harrison in 1891 as a gift. This led to their brand of whisky being imported and introduced to the U.S. a few years later on a wide scale right around the same time the Rob Roy cocktail was being originally formulated. The popularity of Scotland’s game of golf was beginning to spread over to America during the late 19th century as well.

No Longer Official

Prior to 2008, the Rob Roy was an International Bartender’s Association official cocktail designated as a before dinner aperitif. It is unfortunately no longer included in any of the three new categories (the unforgettables, contemporary classics or new era drinks) listed by the IBA on their website as of this writing.

Rob Roy At The Movies

Monsignor Des Spellacy (Robert DeNiro) loves to order Rob Roys straight up with a twist as his signature drink in the movie True Confessions (1981) along with his usual shrimp cocktail. In one scene after ordering at a restaurant, Monsignor Spellacy asks his brother Tommy (Robert Duvall) what he would like. His response: “A Schlitz, straight up, no twist … as long as His Eminence is paying.”

Behind The Bar - How To Mix A Rob Roy Cocktail

Many of the early Rob Roy recipes called for equal parts whisky to vermouth, however proportions of 2 to 1 or greater have become preferred for these manhat-tini style recipes over the years and are recommended here as well.

Classic Rob Roy Cocktail Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 - 2 oz  blended Scotch whisky
  • 3/4 oz  Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • 1 dash  aromatic bitters
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish

Stir together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

A Bitter Twist Turns The Tide For Tipples Titles

Proportions of whisk(e)y to vermouth aside, the Manhattan’s three possible base spirits and one bitter flavor is sort of a mirror image opposite to the Rob Roy’s one base spirit and three bitter flavor combinations. The aromatic, orange and Peychaud’s bitters sometimes called for also pair along with an equal number of garnishes; cherry, lemon and orange.

Rob Roy Cocktail Variations And Similar Drink Recipes:

  • Borden Chase - a Robert Burns cocktail with extra orange bitters and pastis.
  • Highland Fling - orange bitters replace aromatic in a Thistle and is garnished with a martini olive via Mister Boston.
  • Highlander - an orange bittered Rob Roy drink rather than aromatic.
  • Robert Burns - a Thistle along with a dash of anise liqueur.
  • Santiago Scotch Plaid - a Thistle cocktail with French (dry) vermouth instead of sweet.
  • Thistle - a Rob Roy drink mixed with an extra dash of aromatic bitters via Savoy (1930) & Cocktails - How To Mix Them by Robert Vermeire (1922).
  • York - one half jigger whiskey, one half jigger vermouth and three dashes orange bitters via Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler (1900) with Scotch could be a variation of a number of these drink recipes with extra bitter orange. Or, use Irish whiskey for an Emerald / Rory O’More twist, bourbon for a Brown University change and rye for another Manhattan modification.

Confused yet? For all intents and purposes, many of the drinks listed above are the same with duplicate names if you discount extra dashes of bitters as requirements for new monikers. We do, but this should help to sort some of it out.

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