Rob Roy

Rob Roy, the eponymous cocktail bearing the name of the Scottish folk hero Robert Roy MacGregor, pays homage to a man whose legacy has transcended the realms of literature, music, monuments, and even spirits like Scotch whisky.

Rob Roy’s primary occupation was that of an outlaw, his formal role as a cattle farmer and dealer often merging with the more notorious aspects of his life. He was known to both pilfer cattle from his neighbors and offer protection against cattle theft, all for a fee, naturally. In many ways, he was the quintessential racketeer of his time, dedicating half his life to avenging the 1st Duke of Montrose, who had seized part of Rob Roy’s lands as payment for debts. His revenge often took the form of cattle rustling—a specialization of sorts. It’s perhaps this penchant for taking from the rich (the Duke, in this case) that invites comparisons to Scotland’s own Robin Hood, although Rob Roy was more likely to sell the Duke’s cattle than distribute them to the poor.

Rob Roy did lend his support to the Jacobite rising of 1715 but aimed to maintain neutrality in this conflict.
Interestingly, Rob Roy had his share of convictions for various offenses, yet he managed to secure clemency each time, eventually passing away in the comfort of his own bed at an advanced age.

On the surface, his life might not seem the ideal fodder for a national hero, but when approached with the right lens, any story can be spun into legend. Walter Scott took the first steps by penning the novel “Rob Roy,” loosely based on the historical accounts of his life, and others soon followed suit.

In 1894, at New York’s Herald Square Theatre, an operetta by Reginald De Koven and Harry B. Smith named “Rob Roy” premiered. Although only loosely based on Rob Roy’s real-life exploits, this operetta played its part in immortalizing his name.

Around this time, the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, a stone’s throw from the theatre, concocted a new drink in homage to the Scotch whisky and aptly named it after the operetta.

The actual inventor of the Rob Roy cocktail is somewhat elusive, as it’s essentially the Scotch lover’s answer to the Bourbon-laden Manhattan, differing only in the type of whisky used. However, it’s the Waldorf-Astoria that introduced it to the broader world under this moniker, thus earning a place as its likely birthplace.

For those, like myself, who prefer Scotch over Bourbon and have a penchant for vermouth-based cocktails, the Rob Roy is a compelling choice. This cocktail can be prepared in three variations: “sweet,” “dry,” and “perfect.” The standard classic Rob Roy is “sweet,” employing red sweet vermouth. The “dry” Rob Roy features dry white vermouth, while the “perfect” Rob Roy strikes a balance with equal parts of both.

1 1.2 oz / 45 ml Scotch whisky
5/6 oz / 25 ml Sweet vermouth
Dash bitters

Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice and shake gently. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.

Garnish – Maraschino cherry.

Cocktail glass

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