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Rob Roy Cocktail – Best Recipe from New York

The Rob Roy is a slightly sweet, aromatic short drink that is often served as an aperitif. Mixed from whiskey, vermouth and Angostura, it resembles the more well-known Manhattan.

But there is a difference. The Rob Roy is made with Scotch Whiskey whereas the Manhattan is made with Rye Whiskey or Canadian Whiskey. 

In the early 19th century drink recipes involving whiskey and Italian vermouth, these ingredients were used in equal parts. Since today’s Scotch whiskeys have less alcohol, the mixing ratio has changed to 2:1 in most cocktail recipes.

How did the Cocktail get its Name?

The name of this short drink comes from the Scottish folk hero Rob Roy, who, like Robin Hood in England, was an untamed character in Scotland. He lived between the 17th and 18th centuries and his contention with the Duke of Montrose for regaining his lands and his family’s honor is a fundamental part of Scottish folklore (his story was even taken to the movies, with Liam Neeson playing the lead role).

Allegedly Robert Roy MacGregor, always carried a mixture of whiskey, vermouth and bitters with him. 

This mix served as a medicine, a disinfectant or an “encouraging potion” in battles and daily life.

At the end of the 19th century an opera show told the story of Rob Roy. On this occasion, the bartender of the New York Waldorf Astoria Hotel created the modified Manhattan Cocktail and named it after the opera dedicated to Rob Roy.

Try this slightly different Manhattan cocktail! You can find all the ingredients below.


Rob Roy (Whiskey Drink)

The Rob Roy is a slightly sweet, aromatic short drink that is often served as an aperitif. Mixed from whiskey, vermouth and Angostura, it resembles the more well-known Manhattan.
Prep Time6 mins
Total Time6 mins
Course: apertif
Cuisine: american
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 180kcal


  • 2 oz Scotch whiskey
  • 1 oz Red Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura
  • Ice cubes


  • Place ice cubes in a coupe glass to pre-cool. You can also put the glass in the freezer to chill it. Depending on the freezer, 30-45 minutes should be enough.
  • Place all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice cubes and stir for minimum 30 seconds.
  • Remove ice cubes from the glass, strain in all ingredients and garnish with a lemon zest. You can also garnish the cocktail with three pickled cherries on a skewer.


Squeeze the lemon zest over the drink with two fingers so that the essential oils of the citrus peel are distributed over the surface of the drink. Then add the lemon zest to the drink.
As a rule, the Rob Roy is drunk straight up, i.e. without ice in the glass. If you want your drink a little drier, use a dry French vermouth, such as Noilly Prat.
Some bartenders prefer to use a combination of normal and dry red vermouth to get a taste that is not too sweet but neither too dry.
Hugo R. Ensslin came up with a more spicy variant at the beginning of the last century. He called this cocktail Affinity with the following as the recipe.
  • 1 oz (30 ml) blended scotch
  • 0.5 oz (15 ml) red vermouth
  • 0.5 oz (15 ml) dry vermouth
  • 2 dash Angostura Bitters

Recommended Whisky and Vermouth Combinations

No.IngredientsTaste Profile
12 oz Highland Park 12-year
1 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
A light and full bodied drink with slight smokiness.
22 oz The Feathery Blended Scotch
1 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
3 dashes Apple bitters
Similar to the above mix, as this is also fruity and light.
32 oz Glenmorangie 10-year
1 oz Cocchi di Torino vermouth
2 dashes of Regan’s orange bitters
1 dash of Angostura bitters
A Rob Roy with notes of relatively intense notes of orange.
42 oz Aberlour 12-year-old
1 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
For those who like a stronger vermouth taste in their Rob Roy.
52 oz Highland Park 12-year
1 oz Punt e Mes Vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
The vermouth here lends a heavy and spicy touch to the drink.

Recommended: Most popular whiskys in the world

Best Whisky for Rob Roy

The Rob Roy is made for blended whiskeys. Of course you can use single malt whiskeys, but no need to burn a hole in your pocket as standard blends work just fine.

Stay away from Johnnie Walker Red Label, although some of other offerings from JW go well in a Rob Roy. A few recommendations below, particularly for this cocktail.

Sheep Dip Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

A balanced blended malt that comes up with fruity and spicy aromas. If you have never heard of it, here is a fact. It was the best-selling whiskey in Harrods in the 1980s. Excellent choice for a Rob Roy!

Pig’s Nose Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Pig’s Nose 5 years is refreshingly soft, but rich in taste. This exceptional blended Scotch is produced in specially selected first fill oak barrels, to which it owes its well-known smoothness. If you like your Rob Roy more smooth and well rounded, try this in the mix.

Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky

The Monkey Shoulder Whiskey is easy to drink and is therefore ideal for beginners. So if you are new to whiskeys, you will be wise to use this to make your Rob Roy. As Monkey Shoulders website proclaims, “richness and vibrancy combine with fruity aromas and mellow vanilla notes, making it the perfect whisky for mixing”.

Compass Box Spice Tree

The Spice Tree Blended Malt from Compass Box is meant for you if you are looking for a delicious everyday malt that is quite complex but not too heavy.With notes of toasty oak, vanilla, ginger and peppers, Spice Tree makes a perfect Rob Roy cocktail.

The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch

The Famous Grouse is ideal for summer whiskey cocktails. It is mild and pleasing, but still intense. So it really fits nicely in the Rob Roy, especially if you are looking for a non-smoky whiskey.

Other common whiskeys like the Johnnie Walker Green Label and black labels also work well, although the latter is somewhat smoky. Cardhu Gold Reserve is also a suitable.

Whiskey 101: How is whisky made and from what?

Best Vermouth to Use

Punt E Mes

Punt E Mes L’Originale Alternativa Vermouth has a spicy and sweet fragrance. The taste is also sweet, contains spicy undertones with a slightly bitter finish.

Carpano Antica Formula

Carpano Antica Formula

Premium Vermouth from Italy! The Carpano Antica Formula is based on Moscato white wine from Piedmont, which is refined with various white wines from the south of Italy and a secret herbal recipe. Ideal for mixing in Negronis and other classics!!

Dolin Rouge

An extraordinary combination of the vermouth herb Artemisia absinthium and 40 other herbs from the Savoy Alps. It has an excitingly intense taste of Szechuan pepper, fruits, almonds, cinnamon, oregano, tobacco and pear. Enjoy the Dolin Vermouth Rouge pure, or in a Manhattan or Negroni!

Cocchi di Torino

The special thing about Cocchi di Torino are the Chinese bark and rhubarb, which pair beautifully the aromas of the Moscato grapes. Again, highly suitable for the Negroni!

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