What Makes A Rob Roy Cocktail Different From A Manhattan

Scotsman Robert MacGregor lived in the Scottish Highlands and became something of a local hero by challenging authority, stealing from the rich, opposing English Protestants, fighting in the Jacobite uprisings, and — most importantly — evading capture. In time, he became known as Rob Roy (a spinoff on Red Rob) and something akin to Scotland's own Robin Hood, notes Hillwalk Tours. After MacGregor died, an operetta was written about him and debuted on Broadway. 

This is where the cocktail named in his honor comes in. On Fifth Avenue, the newly-established Waldorf-Astoria was cranking out fancy cocktails, including the Rob Roy to serve to hotel guests and Broadway attendees, per Vinepair. While it would be neatly convenient to label this hotel as the birthplace of the drink, the Fifth Avenue Hotel is also a rumored creator contender, and other records point to origins in New Jersey, where the differences between the Rob Roy and Manhattan cocktails become more staunchly defined.

The makings of a classic cocktail

A whisky salesman ordered a Manhattan from a New Jersey bartender but company policy prohibited workers from drinking anything besides their own whisky recounts Vinepair. Complying, the attending bartender made a Manhattan for the weary Scotch salesman, resulting in a smokier drink than the original recipe. Liquor explains that while replacing bourbon or rye with scotch might not seem like a big deal, the difference is noticeable. Choose scotch that plays well with vermouth, Liquor recommends. 

If you're looking to tinker around in your at-home bar, this is a good recipe to start with. Stir vermouth, Scotch whisky, and bitters, and you have yourself a Rob Roy cocktail. Replace the whiskey with rye, swap the cherry garnish with an olive, and you've made yourself a Manhattan, instructs Make Me a Cocktail.

From a Dry Manhattan made with dry vermouth to the Rob Roy made with whiskey, whatever route you choose to take, this family of cocktails is perfect for drinkers looking for a textured profile that is strong and lightly sweet, advises Spirit of York. Regardless of where the first drink was made, these cocktails have staying power and continue to be slid across bars around the world.