Rob Roy: when Manhattan met Scotch

When we talk about cocktails, especially about classic ones, we often find American whiskeys in their recipes. Does it mean that no other kind of spirit is used for cocktail preparation? The answer is simple: no. To prove it, we present the Rob Roy, a switch from the Manhattan  which uses Scotch instead of American whiskey. Together with vermouth, they compose this bittersweet combination.

When it comes to the origins of this recipe, we need to look back to the 1890s. The Rob Roy is supposed to have been created in New York, at the infamous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but there is no clear evidence about which bartender invented it. Nevertheless, Tarquin Melnyk offers a plausible theory in his article “Rob Roy Cocktail and the Bartender Who Created It”. According to him, around that time another famous cocktail, the Bronx, appeared on the menu of Waldorf attributed to John “Curley” O’Connor. Having started working there in 1893, it’s only logical that he could have also created other famous cocktails, and is possibly the mastermind behind the Rob Roy. Given that no other bartender at the Waldorf did anything notable during that time, we tend to trust this theory.

je-oconnorJohn “Curley” O’Connor in 1941, aged 70 (Image Source)

The name chosen for this drink came, as in other classic cocktails of the time (see Adonis), from a Broadway show being performed in 1894, called “Rob Roy”(makes sense, right?). The play told the story of Robert Roy MacGregor, known for being the Scottish Robin Hood of the 18th century. In fact, the cocktail also helped in the introduction of blended Scotch whisky into America. Some people assure that the drink existed in Scotland before it was supposedly created in New York. Whether this is true or not, we will never truly know.

rob_roy_2.jpgRob Roy cocktail (Image Source)

For its preparation, we recommend following Imbebe’s Magazine instructions, to ensure a perfect execution.


  • 75 ml Scotch
  • 30 ml Sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Now you are ready to prepare your very own Rob Roy, but you should also keep in mind these three things about this great classic cocktail:

  • Rob Roy is a variation of the Manhattan, using Scotch whisky.
  • Presumably, it was created at the Waldorf-Astoria of New York in the 1890s
  • It calls for sweet vermouth as one of its key ingredients.

If you like the Manhattan, we are quite sure you will enjoy this variation. And if you don’t, we encourage you to give it a try. When well mixed, it takes the best out of a good blended Scotch whisky and the marvelous taste of vermouth. And who knows, it might become your new favorite drink.


jorgeMy name is Jorge Ferrer, I am a spirits and cocktails lover and a vermouth enthusiast. I earned my MsC in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ESADE Business School and at the moment I hold a Junior Brand Manager position in Brown-Forman. I am planning to market my own vermouth, feel free to reach out or connect with me at or @jorge_chinaski 


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