A Rob Roy/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

A Rob Roy. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Owing to a misspent youth and for reasons I’d rather not get into, I have no taste whatever for blended Scotch whiskeys. Thus the dearth of Scotch-based cocktails during the Friday Cocktail Hour. But there are some fine Scotch-based elixirs that deserve attention, such as the classic Rob Roy, inspired by a 19th-century Broadway show. This was a tradition back then, naming drinks after shows—a tradition worth reviving, I think.  How about it, mixers out there? Give me a Kinky Boots! Or go downtown with a Designated Mourner. Or my fave theater experience of the year, also at the Public Theater, Here Lies Love. I’d love to hear that uttered at a bar.

“What’ll it be, pal?”

“Here Lies Love.”

“Comin’ right up.”

Herewith, a true classic, served in classic proportions. I am forced by my own history to use a splendid single malt (best enjoyed neat with a splash of cool water, if anything) for this excellent cocktail. That said, I was surprised and impressed by the complexity of a cocktail made with an excellent single malt. I’d say it’s worth it.

This cocktail is of course a variation on the theme of sweet vermouth and bitters; change the Scotch to rye or bourbon and it is called a Manhattan. Use bitters to taste. Angostura is the default here, but I love Hella citrus.

The Rob Roy

  • 2 ounces Scotch
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Bitters to taste
  • Lemon twist
  1. Combine the liquids in a shaker with ice, swirl till cold, then pour into a martini glass. Alternatively, mix the liquids in a lowball and add ice. Finish with the lemon twist.

© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


18 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Rob Roy”

  • Dean

    The Rob Roy is indeed a fine cocktail. However, naming a cocktail after shows could be problematic. Would you be willing to step up to a bar and say “Give me a Wiz?”

  • Tags

    Years ago, my sister gave me a birthday card with an audio clip of a Bart Simpson prank call to Moe’s Bar, with Moe answering, “Moe’s Bar, birthplace of the Rob Roy.”

  • May

    Cough, cough.

    Blended Scotch whiskIEs. Everybody else makes whiskey. In Scotland, we make whisky.

    Here endeth the lesson. Drink up!

  • allen

    I always thought they were like a Shirley Temple, until I had one a few years ago made with Laphroaig.
    Smokey Islay, like Laphroaig make a nice Rob Roy in a champagne glass.
    Great choice.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      laphroaig is my fave of all single malts. i’m a cretin through and through

    • Mantonat

      The boy’s version of the Shirley Temple is called a Roy Rogers, so the confusion is understandable.

  • Seth

    I think this is a wonderful tradition to revive,
    But the question is what is in a Book of Mormon?

    • Michael Ruhlman

      I actually thought of posing that but it’s too problematic. given the nature of the show and some events therein, I’d say it would have to be an AssJuice variant.

  • allen

    I like to order a Stella Artois beers like Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. My wife does too.

  • allen

    Punt e Mes for sweet vermouth, and not 2:1, just scare it with a splash. Boo.

  • Mantonat

    There’s almost nothing I despise more than Broadway musicals and almost nothing I love more than whisky cocktails. I’m a fan of the rusty nail, which I ordered recently in a bar. The bartender asked if I wanted it with Carpano Antica instead of Drambuie, so I agreed. It was very tasty, but I didn’t realize until now that I was drinking a Rob Roy instead of a rusty nail.