I can always tell the cocktails I’m only moderately impressed with. They’re the ones that when I get home from work, I reach for a cider or an old standby cocktail instead of my featured cocktail. The Rob Roy was this way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a thing wrong with this drink in the slightest. Rather, it’s a very good drink. If you’re a Scotch person over Bourbon then this will definitely fit your palate. For me, each time I mixed up a Rob Roy I was secretly wishing it was a Manhattan. And, there in, lies my problem.
But, enough about my problems, let’s talk about this drink. First, the Scotch. I have nothing particularly earth-shattering to share with you here beyond what should, by now, be common knowledge for you all. Go with a Scotch that you really enjoy. I tried the drink with both Johnnie Walker Red and Dewars White Label and found them both tasty. But if you drink your Scotch and sodas with Famous Grouse or a single malt or whatever, then by all means, that’s the one you should use. You already know you like it and, hell, you probably already have a bottle in your cabinet.
Second, the bitters. You thought I’d go vermouth, and I will, but first the accent. The bitters, like in any good cocktail play an essential role. For this drink the classic recipes call for Peychaud’s, which is a solid choice. With one caveat. Peychaud’s bitters are truly quite bitter. Go easy with them and you’ll be pleased, go heavy and you might have an overly bitter cocktail on your hands.
Third, but interestingly not last, the vermouth. Again, go with what you like. I tried Punt e Mes for this cocktail as I’d never had it before and found it to be great. Deeply complex and just the right level of sweetness. Would I be paying $20+ per bottle to only make this drink occasionally? Probably not. But there again is where you should go with your old favorite. Do you have a sweet vermouth that you really love? Use it! If you don’t, ask a friend, or a local bar, or hell, email me. We’ll get you on the right track.
Lastly, a couple final comments on mixing the whole deal up and garnishing. If you’re making a standard Rob Roy, namely sweet vermouth and Scotch, then the garnish should be a cherry. If you have real maraschino cherries (i.e. from Italy) then use those, if not, do what I do. Get a bottle of the radiation burn red maraschino cherries from the grocery store, drain the liquid and rinse them good, then submerge them in the liquor of your choice (I like brandy) until they’re delightful (at least a week). If you’re making a perfect Rob Roy, half sweet and half dry vermouth and Scotch, then a lemon twist is your go-to. Last, but certainly not least, when you mix up this drink, try a different ratio that you’re used to. I tried drinks with both 4:1 and 3:1 (Scotch:Vermouth) and was really pleased with both. It allows the spirit to be the star.
When I’m looking for a drink at the end of my day it won’t be a Rob Roy, I’ll reach for the bottle of bourbon every time. But, if you’re a Scotch drinker and you haven’t tried this cocktail, do. You may be missing out on a favorite.