The Rob Roy is an old cocktail. It's a symbol of the introduction of blended Scotch to the United Stated in the 1890's. Invented at the Waldorf Hotel in New York for a Broadway show with the same name as the drink, a Rob Roy is similar to a Manhattan with the bourbon substituted for blended Scotch.
When just getting started mixing cocktails, its common to look at a recipe and think, “That’s just a Manhattan made with Scotch.” And you’d be correct, but you’re underestimating the power one change in a cocktail can make. The Scotch produces a drink that is less sweet than its bourbon counterpart, and one I personally find to be smoother.
As Christopher Buecheler points out in our “It's Friday…Have a Drink” cocktail history and recipe series:
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.
What is a Perfect Cocktail?
This Rob Roy isn't perfect because we like it so much. Perfect is actually a cocktail term that indicates you're to split the vermouth with equal parts sweet and dry, instead of just one or the other. If you just order a “Rob Roy” it will be made only with sweet vermouth, and a “Dry Rob Roy” will be made with only dry vermouth. You can order any cocktail with vermouth in it as perfect, including Manhattans and martinis.
Recipe for a Perfect Rob Roy Cocktail:
» 1.5 oz blended scotch whisky
» .75 oz vermouth: half sweet, half dry
» Dash of Angostura Bitters
» Maraschino cherry or lemon peel
Add the ingredients to a tall glass or cocktail shaker with ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with cherry or lemon peel.