The holidays are a time for friends, family, getting together, and of course of bit of imbibing.
But what drink to mix? There’s such a dizzying range of options.
You have plenty of options, but one of my personal favourites is the Rob Roy.
I’ll tell you why. My father-in-law loves this drink and makes a wonderful, simple version. He had some amazing experiences as a young man, hanging around Greenwich Village in New York and listening to many of the greats of the Golden Age of jazz play live. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, those giants. He also learned to tend bar and has kept his skills up for decades.
He makes a dandy Rob Roy, which is a cocktail that’s been around for over a century. It’s named for a rakish Scottish folk hero of the 1600-1700 period who was later immortalised in popular books and musicals. Effectively, it’s a Manhattan made with scotch, rather than bourbon or rye.
To make it, you’ll need some decent blended scotch. Cheap scotch won’t be disguised by the cocktail, so invest in something like Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker Red. Don’t use single malt or high-end blended scotch, however.
Then get some sweet vermouth. I like Noilly Prat.
Finally, a lemon, lots of ice, and some short cocktail glasses.
Here we go.
THE JAZZMAN’S ROB ROY
1. Put enough ice cubes in a short cocktail glass to fill it halfway.
2. Cut a twist from the lemon (after you’ve washed it). Run the twist around the rim of the glass, then discard.
3. Fill the glass approximately two-thirds of the way with scotch. The cool thing about this version of the Rob Roy is that it’s on the rocks, not “up,” so you don’t have to be precise about your measurements. However, the ratio is roughly 3:1 scotch-to-vermouth.
4. Add enough sweet vermouth to darken the drink a bit. This is the part of the cocktail that’s up to taste. If you like scotch, use less vermouth. If you want to take some of the smoky edge off the scotch, use more vermouth. But don’t just splash in some vermouth.
5. Gently stir the drink, for longer than you think you should.
6. THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT PART! Stare at the drink for about a minute, doing nothing. You are allowing the drink to “water” — the ice is melting, and the cocktail’s components are integrating. It is becoming a drink.
7. Add more ice, if necessary. The drink should jingle a bit from the ice when you move it around in your hand.
8. Add a lemon twist. This might sound like an afterthought, but it’s essential. Because this Rob Roy lacks bitters, a classic ingredient, it needs something to add a bitter element, and the lemon skin does this brilliantly.
The ultimate effect should be a Rob Roy that’s light and refreshing, sort of like a quick jazz flute solo, or something from the soprano sax. Savour it while listening to a couple of numbers from the Bebop era. Toast your good fortune. Send the year off in style!
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