Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Whiskey Wednesday: Scotchtails -- The Rob Roy

In last year's series of classic whiskey cocktails, I highlighted cocktails made with American whiskey, though I threw some Scotch in here and there. Now, I thought I would add some balance by featuring some Scotch cocktails.

A Rob Roy is simply a Manhattan with Scotch instead of Bourbon or rye whiskey. As with the Manhattan, it's a combination of two shots of whisky, one-half shot of sweet vermouth and a few dashes of Angostura bitters, garnished with a lemon rind or a maraschino cherry.

The Rob Roy is a perfect place to start our Scotchtail series, but which Scotch to use? I tried three very different whiskies with my lovely Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth.

The Basic Rob Roy - Johnnie Walker Black

This is the Rob Roy you would be likely to get at a basic bar (if they know what it is). Overall, I'd say the Johnnie Walker isn't bold enough to hold its own against the spicy, herbal notes of bitters and vermouth. It takes a big whiskey to mix into a cocktail like this and something bolder is called for. The JWB Rob Roy tastes like a glass of vermouth, which is nice enough, but not what I ordered.

The Smoky Rob Roy - Black Bottle

Because I love the peat, I next went for a Black Bottle Rob Roy, made with everyone's favorite peaty blended Scotch. The results were...interesting. There was a good deal of smoke on the nose and an interesting saltiness to it, but the taste was a bit medicinal for me.

The Sherried Rob Roy - Macallan

My third Rob Roy used the ultra-sherried cask strength Macallan plus a dash of water to lower the alcohol level. This was my favorite of the three Rob Roys. The bold Macallan, with its sherry flavors, stood up well to the vermouth and bitters. It came together as a smooth, sweet and spicy drink comparable to the best Manhattans. Hmmm, maybe I should be throwing sherried malts into more cocktails.

The Highland

If you substitute orange bitters for Angostura bitters in your Rob Roy, you have an entirely different drink...the Highland. I made a few Highlands and the Black Bottle actually worked much better with the orange bitters, which contrasted the smoky flavors, than the Angostura, which enhanced the more medicinal qualities of the whisky.

Next Wednesday: The Rusty Nail

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