Rob Roy Cocktail

The Rob Roy gets it’s name from an opera by the same name which opened in New York in 1894. In those days it was common to bring about new cocktails and name them after popular shows. For the Rob Roy, they simply took an existing popular cocktail, the Manhattan, and substituted the rye for scotch. Most likely, it would have been made with Dewar’s blended scotch, which had just recently begun being imported into the states.


1 1/2 oz Scotch

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

dash Angostura Aromatic Bitters


Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.


Daniel 27 Jul 2009
7:39 am

hi in the comment below you have misspelled Dewar’s :)

Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
8:00 am

OOOPS! Fixed :->

blair frodelius 27 Jul 2009
8:24 am


I use orange bitters instead of Angostura.  Of course, Angostura makes an orange bitters as seen on your bar in the video.

Another variation on this variation of the Manhttan is the Robert Burns.  Just add a dash (about 4-6 drops) of absinthe in addition to the orange bitters.  It adds another level and depth of character to the mix.


Blair Frodelius

Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
8:56 am

The earliest recipes for the Rob Roy used orange bitters instead of aromatic, when orange bitters became less common, many recipes switched to aromatic (which is preferable from dropping them entirely). Now that we are ankle deep in orange bitters, I suppose it would be a good time to start switching over to the “original” recipe. I -do- list orange bitters in my book. :->

George R. Welch 27 Jul 2009
10:34 am


Another excellent episode!  Actually, I prefer bourbon whiskey to either rye or scotch in this drink, but all are good :-).

Can you do something about the drinkboy web site?  Your poor IIS is barfing furballs all over the screen, and I’ve really come to depend on that site!  Although I have your book, I need the hyperlinks!


Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
10:42 am

George, if you use bourbon instead of scotch… then you’d be making Manhattan :->

As for… I’ve been on email with support all weekend long trying to get this fixed. They occasionally get it up briefly, only to go down again. Hopefully it will be back up again soon!

I was needing to refer to it a couple times this weekend myself, but couldn’t!

George R. Welch 27 Jul 2009
10:47 am

“if you use bourbon instead of scotch

Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
11:04 am

The best technicality as to what is specifically called for in a Manhattan is simply “American Whiskey’.

When the Manhattan was originally invented (late 1800’s) it would have been almost certainly made with what today we “might” call Rye, but only because that is how they made it, not how they “specifically” made it. (refering to BOTH the whiskey and the cocktail). Back in those days they weren’t quite as dedicated to making firm and pervasive classifications for their spirits. Which is why when American Whiskey became illegal to manufacture during Prohibition, it didn’t take much effort at all to switch to using Canadian Whisky instead.

If you want to proudly make a Manhattan and pay homage to its lineage, then you’d want to use American Rye Whiskey, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with making it with American Bourbon instead, especially since rye is still pretty difficult to find.


blair frodelius 27 Jul 2009
12:46 pm


When did the classification of certain ratios of grain for American whiskies come into being?  I know that Bourbon has only had the 51% corn ratio for about 45 years now.


Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
1:29 pm

It was on May 4th 1964 that the definition of Bourbon was declared in a Concurrent Resolution of the Senate (ie, resolved by the Senate with the House concurring)

This resolution does not mention Rye, I’m currently looking for a similar resolution regarding the definition of Rye.

Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
1:36 pm

Oh, and I should point out that the previously mentioned definition doesn’t say bourbon must be 51% corn, only that congress has resolved that Bourbon is a distinctive product of the United States, and thereby prevent importation into the United States of whiskey designated as “Bourbon Whiskey” (but not made in the US). As for what Bourbon is comprised of, it simply references that it is made “in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States which prescribe a standard of identity for “Bourbon whiskey”“

Federico Cuco 27 Jul 2009
2:34 pm

Do you prefer this cocktail with aromatic bitters or orange bitters?

Robert Hess 27 Jul 2009
4:10 pm

Both are good, but for slightly different reasons. With orange bitters you can taste a decidely citrus (but not sour/tart) flavor underlying the overall cocktail, while with aromatic bitters you can taste spicey notes. Both work well with the scotch.

Federico Cuco 3 Aug 2009
5:57 pm

Thanks Robert!

John Doherty 11 Mar 2010
9:36 am

These videos are great and such a big help to someone just trying to get into bar tending. The history aspect really gives an invaluable foundation in the how and why a particular flavor profile comes to be. On a side note, is there a name for this cocktail when Canadian Whiskey is used (something like a Bootlegger or a Border Crossing).

Bill 13 Mar 2010
1:06 pm

Great video. The Rob Roy is a winner every time. It’s good for ordering out, as it’s easy to explain and doesn’t need a super-good scotch. Upsettingly, though, some bartenders like to omit the bitters, which to my mind makes a pretty bad drink. My preference is to have it with tons of Angostura bitters, and plenty of vermouth. I haven’t gotten the same pleasure from the dry and perfect versions, but that could be a problem with the proportions. I wonder also why “perfect” has this peculiar meaning in regard to vermouth? Makes a “perfect martini” awkward to order, since you have to make sure the bartender understands what you mean by “perfect”.

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