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Serves

The Perfect Rob Roy

A classic cocktail with its roots in Scottish legend

While many classic cocktails today have an element of legend to their history, none can claim such a direct link like the Rob Roy, which draws inspiration from the famous Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor. Invented in 1894, the drink is named after an operetta that was based on this Scottish hero. Composed of scotch, vermouth and bitters, the cocktail is quite similar to the Manhattan, differentiated by the exclusive use of scotch whisky instead of rye or bourbon. Smooth on the palate, this cocktail is an intriguing combination of smoky and sweet, where the deep complexity of a single malt shines through. 

The Ingredients 

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. 

 

Ice: optional 

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. 

Rob Roy

The Rob Roy Cocktail

Make the Perfect Rob Roy with the Macallan

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old is matured in hand-picked sherry seasoned oak casks from Jerez for richness and complexity. A matured character, this single malt delivers rich wood spice and dried fruits and a natural rich gold colour. These tasting notes offer a complement to the bitters and dark fruits in the vermouth, and the cherry garnish plays on the deep flavours in the whisky. 

Ingredients

  • 50 ml Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old

  • 25 ml sweet vermouth

  • 5 ml Cherry syrup

  • Dash of orange bitters (to taste)

  • A cherry for garnish

  • Ice cubes for mixing

 

Method

  • Gather the ingredients and add into a mixing glass with ice

  • Stir for approximately two minutes, until the liquid is colder than the ice cubes

  • Pause for a minute or so, to let the drink settle and “water”, allowing the drink components to integrate

  • Strain the mixture into a chilled coupe or martini glass

  • Garnish with a cherry and serve

 

Tips

  • Rob Roys are best enjoyed as chilled as possible, so place your cocktail glass into a freezer about 30 minutes prior to making your cocktail

  • Used a fresh, organic cherry to ensure no unwanted preservatives tarnish you

History

Unlike many cocktails the Rob Roy has documented historical origins. In 1894 an operetta debuted in New York City that featured Rob Roy MacGregor—Scotland’s latter day Robin Hood. He was a figure from the late 1600s, who’s various exploits and adventures were immortalised in Daniel Defoe’s fictionalised biography “Highland Rogue”. With the launch of the production in the late 19th century, a bartender in Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel named this drink the “Rob Roy” in honour of this iconic figure.