Rob Roy

An article I wrote for Chilled Magazine.

According to bartending legend, the Rob Roy was created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City. The cocktail was named in honor of the premiere of Rob Roy, an operetta written by composer Reginald De Koven. The show was based off the folk hero and outlaw, Robert Roy MacGregor, or simply put, Rob Roy. Both the operetta and the drink were equally successful, but the cocktail has long outperformed De Koven’s famous show.

The recipe for the Rob Roy, which uses Scotch whisky as its primary spirit, mixed with sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, an addition to the drink, first appeared in The Savoy Book, published by The Savoy Hotel of London in 1930. It mentions the drink’s popularity in Scotland, especially in honor of the fictional Rob Roy, also known as the Scottish version of Robin Hood.

The Rob Roy is similar to the king of cocktails, the Manhattan, but is made exclusively with Scotch whisky instead of rye or bourbon. It’s common to think the Rob Roy stole the Manhattan’s recipe (Rob Roy was a bandit, you know), and is nothing more than a Manhattan made with scotch. Sometimes it’s even referred to as a Scotch Manhattan. Basically, that’s what it is, but that one switch of rye or bourbon for scotch in the mix makes for a whole different taste, as most whiskey drinkers will be sure to point out. For most, the Rob Roy tends to be drier, with a smoky texture, and not as smooth or sweet as the Manhattan, but the Scotch really emphasizes the flavors and aromas of the vermouths. Because it’s got such a strong flavor, the Rob Roy makes for a great afternoon cocktail, on its own, or as an after dinner beverage.

Depending on the preference of the drinker, the Rob Roy can be served straight up or on the rocks, filled with ice. For straight up, the ingredients should be combined in a mixing glass and stirred thoroughly, then strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a cherry.

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’s no reason to specify that you want it sweet. A dry Rob Roy is made simply by substituting the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. A perfect Rob Roy is made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. The drink is usually served in a cocktail glass, but the sweet version is most likely garnished with a maraschino cherry, and for the dry and perfect versions, a lemon twist.

If you’re looking for a classic cocktail with a punch and a surprisingly original taste that will not disappoint, the Rob Roy is the way to go.


1.5 oz Scotch whisky
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry or lemon peel


Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.

Stir and strain into a chilled glass.

Garnish with cherry or lemon peel.


  1. javaj240 · September 23, 2012

    I have never used bitters in a Rob Roy. Interesting that this recipe calls for it.

  2. Nicole · September 23, 2012

    I’ve never made a Rob Roy, but I found that the original recipe didn’t include bitters. That’s something I should add to my article before I send the final copy.
    Thank you for pointing that out!

  3. Kirsten Lopresti · September 24, 2012

    Never had one, but interesting article.

    • Nicole · September 24, 2012

      Neither have I. As a journalist/writer, I feel that I should. Thank you for reading, Kirsten.

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