Simply a Manhattan made with Scotch whisky, the Rob Roy has been kicking around for more than a century, mixed in everything from artisan-cocktail bars to the beer-and-a-shot place down the street, and fitting in just as well at either kind of establishment.
While it's certainly possible to screw up this drink, it's such a simple formulation that, with just a little attention to detail, even the most distracted bartender can come up with something approachable. Be sure to use a decent blended Scotch—Famous Grouse is a good, affordable blend, or you can aim for one of the higher shelves (Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas Regal, et cetera) if your wallet is willing to accommodate you.
If you have any control over matters at all—say, if you're mixing a round at home—try using fresh vermouth (keep it refrigerated to make it last longer), and don't forget the bitters.
In a recent issue of Esquire, drinks correspondent David Wondrich suggests ditching the typical cherry garnish and going with a lemon twist; this is a fine idea, though I think a thin swatch of orange zest is particularly scrumptious in a Rob Roy.
The use of a single-malt Scotch may be something of a waste, as the vermouth and bitters will obscure some of the nuances you look (and pay) for in these whiskies. That said, if you want to go premium with your Rob Roy and break out the Highland Park or the Bruichladdich, it's your call—though if you take this path, maybe upgrade the vermouth as well, to something like Carpano Antica Formula or Vya. And feel free to swap out the Angostura for orange bitters or something else that sounds appealing. The Rob Roy is accommodating that way.
- 2 ounces (60ml) blended Scotch whisky
- 1 ounce (30ml) sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Garnish: lemon or orange twist
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well for about 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon or orange peel over the drink and use as garnish.
Mixing glass, cocktail strainer