According to Wikipedia, the Rob Roy was invented in 1894, put together by an unnamed bartender at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. The drink was made to commemorate an opera about the Scottish folk hero (played by Liam Neeson in 1995’s movie of the same name).
The cocktail is usually summed up as “A Manhattan with Scotch” which is not inaccurate, since that’s exactly what it is. But that description kind of glosses over the truth of the drink, which is that it’s much more customizable than a Manhattan. Scotch, as Primer’s Visual Guide to Whiskey shows, comes from four separate regions of Scotland (not to mention Japanese whiskeys, which are mainly scotches that just happen to come from another country). Each region imparts its own flavors to the whiskey, and even within those regions the variances can be huge.
I’m not saying that “bourbon is bourbon” or “rye is rye”, but in general there is less variance within those spirit types than there is within scotch, which means your choice of whisky in a Rob Roy will have a large impact on what the drink tastes like. A soft, blended whisky will stay closer to a traditional Manhattan, in terms of flavor, than a big, smoky Islay offering. My recommendation: try some scotches neat, first, to determine what you like, and then work from there.
This article is a modified and enhanced version of a post that ran on my nightly cocktail blog, DrinkShouts. Liquors in parentheses are what I used when I made this recipe, and are included as suggestions.
The Rob Roy Cocktail Recipe
- Pint Glass
- Bar spoon
- Cocktail Strainer
- Chilled cocktail glass