1890s Historical Vermouth Whisky

The Classic Rob Roy

January 24, 2018

On Wednesdays we do history! …Probably, for as long as I can keep this up or until I run out of cocktails.

With this Wednesday falling a day before Burns Night, today’s cocktail feature was only ever going to be a Rob Roy. The Rob Roy is one of my all time favourite cocktails; resembling a Manhattan but with the far superior Scotch Whisky. My ideal Rob Roy would be made with a Japanese whisky… The interesting history of Japanese whiskys (which I will save for a future post), surmises that they are almost all done in a traditional Scotch style, so go ahead and try making this with your favourite Japanese whisky as well!

In this ‘historical cocktails‘ series, I’ll be picking a classic cocktail every week, creating it, then discussing the history of it. If you don’t like history, then you can skip straight to the recipe.


Image result for Rob Roy MacGregor

The Rob Roy was created in 1894 at the Waldorf Hotel in New York. There was a period in time where often many cocktails would be named after operettas, plays or musicals (for example, Blood & Sand, Mae West, and Greta Garbo), and the Rob Roy is no different – named after its namesake operetta show composed by Reginald De Koven. This performance was based on the life of Rob Roy MacGregor – see left (Gaelic: Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair), the name “Roy” coming from his curly red hair, and reflected in the rich red colours of the cocktail. Rob Roy is remembered as an 18th century Scottish outlaw, akin to Robin Hood. The truth is a little less glamorous, he actually extorted large sums of money through an extensive cattle protection racket and later became a cattle thief of the rich. This operetta based on Rob Roy’s life was instrumental in introducing this cocktail. This cocktail was also a way of introducing Scotch Whisky to the American public, and many modern cocktails today can trace their thanks to it.


To Make a Perfect Rob Roy

Picking a perfect Whisky for your Rob Roy is of utmost importance! This cocktail really lets the natural flavours shine right through, and so one that is both palatable, not too sweet or strong and that compliments the vermouth well. Famous Grouse is a popular (and inexpensive) blend in Scotland – this is the blend I’ve used for my Rob Roy (pictured). To be a traditionalist, the original Scotch used in the earliest recipe would have been Dewar’s White Label. My final suggestion would probably be the Cutty Sark, which has a higher grain content and tastes milder.

The vermouth on the other hand, as the ingredient with less quantity is a lot more flexible. For my recipe, I’ve used Carpano Antica Formula because of personal taste preferences. It has a great bouquet with notes of dried fruit and spices and a certain herbal undertone which reminds me very well of Scotland. Martini Rossi will also do just fine, or any red vermouth that is sweet. Del Professore is another of my favourite vermouths and is definitely sweet, complimenting the cherry gorgeously.

As ever, trust your gut and pick your favourites! Mine are only suggestions.


And of course, Happy Burns Night friends!

I wasn’t brought up the most traditionally Scottish, but with a good Gaelic name like Mairi and having lived in Glasgow – it plays a big part of my identity! Burns Night is always a big deal in my household, if only so we can drink whisky and toast the Haggis! Yes you heard right, I LOVE Haggis. If you’re not familiar with the poem, then get revising for tomorrow! This time next year I promise I’ll be more organised and get some food & specific Burns Night cocktail recipes up in time. If you follow my Instagram, nae doubt you’ll catch a sight of tomorrow’s festivities anyway!

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!



The Classic Rob Roy

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 Glass


  • 60 ml Scotch Whisky
  • 30 ml Red Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 Maraschino Cherry


  1. Cool your glass, and in a separate mixed combine the whisky, vermouth, angostura bitters and ice.

  2. Stir thoroughly till cooled through. Strain into your cooled martini class and garnish with a Maraschino Cherry.


Sources for this post include Historic UK, The Spruce, and “The Curious Bartender Volume 1” by Tristan Stephenson

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  • Reply Anonymous January 24, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    I love Martini Rosso and since you’re a good cocktail expert, I’d like your opinion. Do you think it will work well as the vermouth in a gin martini?

    • Reply Citrus and Cinnamon January 24, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      I would say so! Martini Rosso is a very old recipe strong on botanicals – I think such a thing would compliment gin very nicely!
      Although, I’ve never drunk it straight, only in a mix like a Negroni (which is dry gin, martini rosso and campari if you fancy splashing that extra ingredient in!) …
      Only one way to find out though, right? Try it and get back to me! 🙂

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