Rob Roy: A Drink You Can Depend On

25 Feb

In the March 2010 issue of Details Magazine, the one with Leonardo DiCapprio on the cover, there is an article entitled “A Drink You Can Depend On” which discusses the Rob Roy.  They say that it is a tribute to the drink, as it is one that is rarely screwed up:

Here we are, ten years into a revolution in the way America makes and drinks cocktails, and it can still be damned difficult to get a good one.  Sure, you can go to one of the new speakeasy-style boutique cocktail joints.  By now, almost every city of any size has at least one.  Your drinks will be good.  You’ll probably even meet interesting people.  But you’ll pay a lot of money for those drinks, and – the real problem – you’ll miss out on one of the greatest things a bar can offer.  Patina, let’s call it: that intangible feel of comfort and security that drinking in a place that was open for business when your grandfather was barely legal gives.  The modern speakeasies will get that one day, but if you wait for it, it’ll be a long time between drinks.

Unfortunately, the modern cocktail place can be a picky one, and in our experience most places that have been around long enough to get that patina are, let’s say, not obsessed with current trends in mixology.  In joints like that, we order a Rob Roy.  We might, all things considered, prefer a manhattan, but something has happened to manhattan-making out in the wild that has rendered it a risky choice.  You would think that two parts rye or buurbon, one part red vermouth and a couple dashes of bitters would be hard to screw up.  But most non-geek bartenders, reasoning from the dry martini, seem to believe that vermouth is toxic and use only a tiny splash, leaving you with a big glass of (often) lukewarm whiskey. (Whiskey is not gin; it needs vermouth and can stand up to it perfectly fine.) Then, realizing that this isn’t all that appetizing, they attempt to fix things by splashing in the yuck from the maraschino-cherry jar, thus compounding the error.

Rather than argue with an otherwise-wonderful bartender, we’d rather make an end run.  A Rob Roy is nothing more than a Scotch manhattan.  But that’s the last way you want to order it.  Just say “Rob Roy.”  If the bartender knows it, he’ll make it the way it is in the book.  Good.  If not, simply say, “two parts scotch, one part red vermouth, couple dashes of bitters.”  Done.  And if you are offered a cherry, decline that offer.  Twist.  Now, drink in hand, you may take the generations’ worth of crap on the walls, enjoy the story the old-timer next to you is telling, and appreciate the polka records on the jukebox.  Best of both worlds.

How to make a more interesting Rob Roy:

Mix with cracked ice:

  • 1.5 oz. of Compass Box Asyla blended Scotch (or Johnnie Walker Black)
  • 1.5 oz. of Carpano Antica vermouth
  • 2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters number 6
  • Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an imported, Luxardo-brand maraschino cherry.
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