Beverages, Recipes

Rob Roy Cocktail (Manhattan with Scotch)

The Rob Roy cocktail first came onto the scene in 1894, so it’s been around quite a while. It takes its name from an operetta that premiered about the same time. 

The operetta was based on the story of Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish folk hero from the late 1600s to early 1700s. 

Rob Roy Cocktail on a Coupe garnish with cocktail cherries

But what exactly is the Rob Roy cocktail, and what does it have to do with the bandit-turned-folk-hero of the same name? 

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Simple, it’s a twist on the classic Manhattan that uses, you guessed it, scotch instead of bourbon or rye. 

What’s in a Rob Roy? 

Here’s what you’ll need to make an authentic Rob Roy: 

  • Ice – Use large cubes for stirring. 
  • Scotch – Rob Roy’s flavor profile can vary based on the type of scotch you use. A smoky, peaty scotch will impart a bold, distinctive flavor. A lighter, smoother scotch will make a more mellow drink.
  • Sweet red vermouth – Vermouth is a fortified wine and can oxidize over time. Be sure your vermouth is fresh for the best-tasting cocktail. Once opened, refrigerate it and use it within a month or so.
  • Angostura bitters – Stick strictly to Angostura, not orange or other bitters. And be sure they’re fresh. 
  • Garnishes – Garnishes are always optional, of course, but I always add them. The cocktail cherry is standard, but I enjoy adding an orange twist. Some people disagree, claiming citrus has no place in the drink. Use your own judgment. 
Rob Roy Cocktail on a stemmed glass with jigger and cocktail strainer on a wooden table

How to Make a Rob Roy 

These steps for this drink couldn’t be simpler: 

1. Fill a glass with ice. Then, add the scotch, vermouth, and bitters. 

2. Stir it briskly for about 20 seconds

3. Strain it into a chilled cocktail glass

4. Garnish it with a cocktail cherry and orange twist

5. Enjoy! 

What Scotch is Best for a Rob Roy? 

The best scotch for my Rob Roy cocktails is blended scotch. I like the smooth and spicy flavor, and it isn’t too sweet. It also has just the right amount of smokiness. 

You could also use single malt scotch if you prefer. 

Really, you can use whatever scotch you like best. After all, you’re making the drink to suit your tastes, so go with what you enjoy. 

Rob Roy Cocktail served in a tall cocktail glass with black cherries served as garnished

Recipe Variations 

These simple variations are fun takes on the classic Rob Roy.

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  • Play with the ratios. Want a sweeter or drier drink? Experiment with using different ratios of scotch to vermouth. As written, the recipe uses a 2:1 ratio. Try using a 2:2 for a more balanced drink or a 3:1 for more bite. 
  • Make a dry Rob Roy. Simply use dry vermouth instead of sweet. You may also want to swap out the sweeter garnishes for an olive or cocktail onion. 
  • The “Perfect” Rob Roy. Substitute 1/4 sweet vermouth and 1/4 dry vermouth for the sweet vermouth in the recipe. Garnish it with a lemon twist.
Rob Roy Cocktail