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Rob Roy Cocktail

The Manhattan meets scotch.

Cocktail riffs can go on to become popular drinks in their own right, or they can forever live in the shadow of the original. The Rob Roy—a bona fide classic with more than a century of history under its belt—somehow fits into both columns. The Rob Roy’s creation story is commonly credited to New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, in conjunction with the release of the 1894 operetta of the same name based on the life of Scottish outlaw-turned-folk-hero Robert Roy MacGregor. (Though, as cocktail historian David Wondrich discovered in a very deep dive into the drink’s history, other plausible points of origin exist.) Regardless of its origin, the Rob Roy remains a semi- regular player on cocktail menus—particularly at whisky-centric establishments—though it’s still often described as simply a Manhattan made with Scotch whisky. Though basically accurate, this dismissal misses the possibilities to be found in such an arrangement.

At Seattle bar Rob Roy, owner Anu Apte offers a couple of options that demonstrate the cocktail’s versatility. “The scotch should definitely play a starring role,” says Apte, who herself prefers a hefty 3 to 1 ratio. “That being said, the choice of scotch and vermouth plays a major role in the drink build.” The bar’s Rob Roy Elegant (The Feathery blended malt, Dolin rouge vermouth, and apple bitters) is light and delicate, while the Rob Roy Bold (Laphroaig 10 year, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, and Angostura bitters) sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. “A well- made Rob Roy will transport you, and by switching up ratios, bases, and vermouths, you can have a completely different experience every time,” says Apte. “Manhattans are delicious, but what people should really be saying is that a Rob Roy is an Improved Manhattan.”


  • 2 oz. scotch
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Tools:mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
  • Glass:cocktail or coupe
  • Garnish:cherry


Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir to chill, then strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

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