Published Jan 5, 2008

The regularly-updated content I promised here on Well, here’s part 1 of the complete calendar: a monthly fun drink that you can join me in boozing it up with! This month’s drink is the Rob Roy — a version of the Manhattan made with Scotch. (A Manhattan is basically a Martini, but with whiskey, traditionally Rye.) A Manhattan should be sweeter, richer, and more flavorful than the dry, understated Martini; the Rob Roy adds on to that Scotch’s traditional peaty flavors.

So why’d I pick the Rob Roy? Well, first of all, I love Martinis, but sometimes one wants to go a bit afield. Also, I wanted to make sure that — as is a requirement for all the drinks in this series — the ingredients are fairly easy-to-find; let’s face it, I don’t enjoy rooting around for rare liqueurs, and it’s more fun to make drinks that my friends can share in anyway.

And I wanted to have a whiskey.1 Since I’m allergic to corn, this means that blended whiskeys and all Bourbons are verboten for me. Single malts on the other hand, are safe; Irish whiskeys are usually blended, so this really leaves Scotch.2 I found a couple of affordable single-malts and determined to see what I could do with them.

Scotch #1 is Lismore Single Malt. From the Speyside region, whence comes most Scotch, this is a pretty accessible beverage when drunk neat, with just a little peat and an overall sweet, caramel-y3 taste. Scotch #2, Finlaggan, is an Islay single malt; Islay Scotches are typically the peatiest of the Scotches, and Finlaggan didn’t disappoint, with a tremendous peaty, smoky flavor that was much more challenging when drunk neat. Of course, the real test was the Rob Roy.

A Rob Roy typically contains a 2.5:1 or 3:1 mix of Scotch to Vermouth, with a few shots of bitters to round it out. I found that the Speyside worked much better with Dry Vermouth and Angostura bitters, and the Islay with Sweet Vermouth and Fey’s bitters, which are a bit sweeter than the Angosturas. I substantially preferred the flavor of the Finlaggan Islay single malt, which had more flavor, as well as a rounder taste. Overall, I’d definitely drink a Rob Roy on a regular basis; it’s not as refreshing as a Martini, but it’s delicious, matches well with food, and provides access to a whole new set of flavors. I’ve found that most bartenders know the Rob Roy, so this is a drink I could order out, too; I’ll have to learn the names of a few common Islay single malts so I can get a Rob Roy with my choice of call liquor.

1 Or, as the Scots spell it, “whisky.”

2 There are a small number of all-rye American Ryes, but these challenge my “easy-to-find” rule. For people who can tolerate corn, the Jim Beam Rye, which is pretty common, is supposed to make a good Manhattan.

3 I’m told that the proper term for whisky-philes is “toffee.”


I prefer William Wallace… or, better yet, Robert the Bruce.

Laphroaig 10 year is good and 15 year is better, from islay. Oban 14 year is good, from west highland. I like the Glenlivet 18 yr-speyside, and Macallan 18 yr-highland. Come into Ocean and Vine at the Loews Hotel and I’ll serve you a scotch sampler.. or a Robroy Manhattan of your choice scotch.. not recommended for people 90 and over