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The Rob Roy cocktail, a Scotch whiskey riff on the classic Manhattan, has carved its own niche in the history of mixology. Originating around 1894 at the Waldorf Astoria’s original location on Fifth Avenue, the Rob Roy has endured through the ages, captivating the palates of cocktail enthusiasts with its smooth blend of Scotch whiskey, sweet vermouth, and dashes of Angostura bitters.
To understand the genesis of the Rob Roy, we must step back in time to the Gilded Age, an era marked by opulence, cultural innovation, and the emergence of the cocktail as a social institution. The Waldorf Astoria, a bastion of luxury and refinement, played a pivotal role in shaping the cocktail culture of the late 19th century. It was within the hallowed walls of this iconic hotel, at its original Fifth Avenue location, that the Rob Roy cocktail first came to life.
According to Frank Caiafa, a respected New York City bartender and author of “The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book” the Rob Roy drew inspiration from an operetta titled “Rob Roy,” which graced the stage of the nearby Herald Square Theater. The operetta’s influence on the cocktail’s nomenclature and composition remains a testament to the interconnectedness of art, culture, and mixology during this period. As patrons flocked to the Waldorf Astoria’s bar, seeking cocktails that mirrored the sophistication of the age, the Rob Roy emerged as a fitting tribute to the artistic flair of the operatic production.
The enduring allure of the Rob Roy cocktail lies not only in its historical roots but also in its meticulously crafted recipe. Like its Manhattan predecessor, the Rob Roy elegantly balances the robust character of Scotch whiskey with the sweetness of vermouth.
At the core of the Rob Roy lies the soul-stirring spirit of Scotch whiskey. Renowned for its distinct peaty and smoky notes, Scotch whiskey infuses the cocktail with a character that is both bold and refined. The choice of a blended Scotch whiskey for this cocktail allows the blend of single malt and grain whiskies, resulting in a balanced and approachable flavor profile. The robust and complex nature of Scotch whiskey transports the drinker to the mist-covered landscapes of Scotland, where centuries-old distilleries craft this liquid gold with time-honored precision.
The selection of Scotch whiskey in the Rob Roy cocktail is pivotal, as it sets the stage for the entire composition. From the moment the amber liquid is poured into the mixing glass, it introduces an element of sophistication that is emblematic of the Gilded Age. As the drink is stirred and strained into the glass, the whiskey unfolds its layers, offering a sensory journey that captures the essence of its Scottish heritage.
The sweet vermouth in the Rob Roy cocktail serves as the yin to the yang of Scotch whiskey’s boldness. This fortified wine, infused with a medley of botanicals and spices, introduces a luscious sweetness and aromatic complexity to the cocktail. In the 19th century, vermouth was experiencing a renaissance, becoming a staple in the repertoire of classic cocktails. Its inclusion in the Rob Roy not only softens the edges of the whiskey but also elevates the overall drinking experience.
The sweet vermouth specified in the recipe is a carefully measured addition, ensuring a perfect equilibrium between the robust Scotch whiskey and the sweet, herbal notes of the vermouth. After these two elements intertwine in the mixing glass, they create a mix that transcends the sum of its parts, offering a sensory journey that is as delightful as it is sophisticated.
No classic cocktail is complete without a dash of bitters, and the Rob Roy is no exception. The addition of Angostura bitters to the recipe serves as the final stroke of culinary alchemy, imparting depth, complexity, and balance to the drink. The proprietary blend of herbs and spices in Angostura bitters, a closely guarded secret since its creation in the early 19th century, introduces a subtle layer of bitterness and aromatic intrigue.
As the bitters mingle with the Scotch whiskey and sweet vermouth, they become the catalyst for the cocktail’s transformation. The bitters act as a bridge between the contrasting elements, smoothing out rough edges and enhancing the overall harmony of the Rob Roy cocktail. With just a few drops, Angostura bitters elevate the cocktail from a simple blend of ingredients to a nuanced and sophisticated elixir.
60 ml blended scotch whisky
30 sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: luxardo maraschino cherry
Add the blended scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters into a mixing glass.
Add ice and stir for 10 seconds, until chilled.
Strain into a coupe glass.
Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.