red rob roy

20180410_180653277990927.jpgHello all and welcome to Cocktail U. Today’s lesson not only names an adult beverage to serve with last week’s Ham Hock Soup, but also asks what makes a classic cocktail classic and how far you can stray from the original and still call it such.

First, let’s re-visit Great-aunt Helen’s soup.20180403_110730.jpgYum. And as we had snowfall yet again today here in Minnesota, it still works for the season. Choosing a cocktail to serve with a hearty soup was a stretch, but I was determimned. Vodka seemed right, though perusing favorite cocktail books unearthed zero vodka cocktails that matched well with rich, salty soup.

What finally caught my attention was the Rob Roy. Already a fan of old-school classic cocktails, I remember ordering this Scotch version of the Manhattan at a throwback Italian restaurant many years ago. I haven’t had it since, but it struck me as something with enough bite to cut through rich ham broth.

It was then that my education began. Preparing for this post, I had been flipping through a book worth reading cover-to-cover.20180410_1343471738221080.jpgDickson’s book delves into what happened to America’s thirst for booze during Prohibition. Strangely enough, outlawing the sale of alcohol re-birthed the cocktail. Alcohol was understandably hard to come by, and when it could be had it was often nasty. Adding other ingredients – sodas, fruit juices, etc. – improved taste and the cocktail took off. Contraband Cocktails also offers recipes, each with its story.

So the Rob Roy, then.20180410_134158195516567.jpgMy memory is of a ruby red beverage. When I made it using the above recipe, I sighed at my lack of sweet vermouth and used the extra-dry I had on hand instead. What I got was this:20180410_133837443768399.jpgNot red. Was it still a Rob Roy? A quick search turned up this bit of Wiki-wisdom:

A Rob Roy is similar to a Manhattan but is made exclusively with Scotch whisky, while the Manhattan is traditionally made with rye and today commonly made with bourbon or Canadian whisky.

Like the Manhattan, the Rob Roy can be made “sweet”, “dry”, or “perfect”. The standard Rob Roy is the sweet version, made with sweet vermouth, so there is no need to specify a “sweet” Rob Roy when ordering. A “dry” Rob Roy is made by replacing the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. A “perfect” Rob Roy is made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

The Rob Roy is usually served in a cocktail glass and garnished with two maraschino cherries on a skewer (for the standard version) or a lemon twist (for the perfect and dry versions).

What I had done, then, was make a Perfect Dry Rob Roy. It was tasty enough, but I really wanted red. Rob Roys are supposed to be red. Right?

A dash to the local liquor store earned me a bottle of Noilly Prat, my favorite sweet vermouth. (Thank you, Princess!) At home, I remade the drink and saw some color.20180410_1807152121462013.jpgAccording to experts, the proper garnish would have been two cocktail cherries, but herein lie the questions: Was it still a Rob Roy when I used extra-dry vermouth? Does the one-cherry treatment take away from its authenticity? Instead of Angostura bitters, I used Boomtown Bitters, a small-batch artisanal bitter made in New York. Does this mean my cocktail is no longer a Rob Roy? Can you tweak a classic cocktail and still rightfully call it by its name?20180410_133643317930901.jpgHonestly, I don’t know that the answers matter. I liked my Perfect Rob Roy (equal parts vermouth and Scotch, sweet vermouth instead of dry) better than the dry version as the sweetness balanced the bitter of the bitters. What I call either or what you call your twists on favorite beverages isn’t important. What is crazy important is that you create something you enjoy and that you enjoy it thoroughly.20180410_1807261405118369.jpgCheers to that and many good cocktail wishes going forward!

Next go round, we’ll dive back into Great-aunt Helen’s recipe boxes. Here’s hoping the weather warms and we’ll be looking for a dish that works with proper spring weather.

10 thoughts on “red rob roy

  1. So perfect is better than dry. And the drink is named after the operetta, which is named after the man. And the man was Scotch, and Scotland is full of soulless gingers with red hair, which the red color gives nod to. Whoosh. Growing up, I only knew Rob Roy as a large luxury community in West Austin with million dollar homes, so that’s still what I associate it with. I bet some of those homeowners drink Rob Roys. Odd coinkeedink on operetta bc today I just finished reading a novel that had to do with the writers of Porgy and Bess, and they were trying to figure out if it should be a musical or an operetta. All these facts in my head! It really is Cocktail U.

    • Now my head is spinning, too 🙂 I at first had the drink confused with Roy Rogers, though that I think is the male equivalent of Shirley Temple kiddy cocktail. Good thing there are no tests on any of this!

      Good novel? Sounds like fun.

    • I prefer my boulevarier to this, but good to mix things up every now and then. Yes to the Manhattan. So. Another 9″ snow predicted by tomorrow eve. Ridiculous. How goes it in your parts?

  2. Liz–Thanks for sharing the cake and the happy blog-iversary wishes. A funny thing happened when I tried to reply to your comment. It vanished when I hit reply. Sometimes I wonder about the bug fixes in WordPress.


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