As with most classic cocktails, the beauty lies in the quality and simplicity of ingredients. The Rob Roy is easy to make at home as all the ingredients are common cocktail components; unassuming building blocks combined create a superb drink.
Whisky: The foundations
The bedrock of the Rob Roy is a quality scotch whisky. While some prefer blended whiskies, experimenting with different single malts yields surprising delights. The dried fruit or subtle vanilla flavours common to our sherry oak casks combined with the vermouth and bitters bring new expressions and tones.
Vermouth: the framework
The essential mixer, vermouth is a fortified, aromatic wine. It is made up of wine mixed with a bit of brandy, infused with a mixture of herbs and spices, and sweetened. It comes in either dry or sweet varieties and most Rob Roys call for a sweeter vermouth, although some recipes suggest a mixture. Sweeter vermouth originates from Italy, while France holds claim to the drier version. As with any ingredient, quality makes a difference, and it is essential to keep vermouth cool after opening to preserve the flavours.
Bitters: the walls
Bitters are the term given to a neutral spirit that has been strongly infused with a range of aromatic herbs, plants and spices. Originally developed for medicinal purposes, flavours can include orange or grapefruit, or classic branded mixes such as Angostura, Peychaud’s, and Bittermans. Bitters add another layer of flavour to your Rob Roy, complementing the whisky and sweet vermouth.
While you can serve Rob Roys on the rocks over ice, it is traditionally stirred with ice and strained into a chilled glass. Drinking this cocktail on the rocks will end up diluting the flavours slightly, so most prefer to get the drink as cold as possible without leaving the ice cubes in the cocktail.
Garnish: the accent
There are a number of garnishes that are traditionally preferred for a Rob Roy. Cherries are the garnish of choice, usually a maraschino or brandied cherry such as Luxado. The tart/sweet addition act as the perfect accent to the balance of flavours in your glass. Another popular garnish is the lemon twist, as the small layer of tartness will cut through the sweeter elements of the vermouth while working with the bitters and whisky flavours.
Mixing it up: Varieties on the Rob Roy
There are two main types of Vermouth, sweet and dry. The longstanding classic is the sweet Rob Roy, and by switching out the sweet vermouth for its dry counterpart you can make a dry Rob Roy. Using an olive garnish for the dry version works quite well, as otherwise the sweetness of the cherry may clash with the drier flavours. The ‘perfect’ Rob Roy is when you combine equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, although feel free to experiment with different ratios to find your favourite.