One of the great things about classic cocktails is that drinking one feels like you're imbibing with a piece of history. While there are many historical beverages out there, one of the most enduring is the Rob Roy. Technically, one could consider this cocktail an offshoot of the Manhattan, but this simple drink has carved out a place for itself against the hustle and bustle of modern mixtures.
Although the defining ingredient in a Rob Roy is scotch whiskey, it's not technically necessary. That is, you can substitute your favorite blended scotch for something without any alcohol. While an alcohol-free Rob Roy may sound a bit odd, what matters is what you use to replace the scotch. In this case, we're using Mashville, a whiskey alternative from Seir Hill. The company specializes in non-alcoholic spirits like Durangold tequila and Biscane rum.
What sets Seir Hill spirits apart from other alcohol-free drinks is that they replicate the taste and mouthfeel of the real thing. So, you can imbibe all you want without the pain of a hangover. You also don't have to worry about the threat of embarrassment from having one too many. Also, many modern drinkers like to go the alcohol-free route to ensure better health without sacrificing happy hour and the social benefits it brings.
So, without further ado, let's bust out our cocktail shakers and see what this non-alcoholic Rob Roy recipe is all about.
A Brief History of the Rob Roy Cocktail
The 1800s was a golden age for cocktails as liquor and spirits were traveling the globe on the backs of trade ships. As sailors and merchants brought their favorite booze from one country to another, creative minds began mixing them to see how well they'd blend. This era gave us many of the classic cocktails we know and love today, including the Manhattan, gimlet, martini, and many others.
Typically, the origin of a cocktail is hard to pin down since record-keeping from this era was not as comprehensive as it is today. Usually, historians will estimate the birthplace of a drink based on where it was printed first. For example, the Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide from 1862 lists many cocktails that would become mainstays in bars everywhere.
For the Rob Roy, its origins are a bit more cut and dry. First of all, the name stems from a Broadway operetta, which itself was based on the legend of the Scottish folk hero. While it's hard to say how much of Roy's history is bluster and how much is fact, his story certainly captivated the public of the late 1800s. The operetta debuted in 1894, and a bartender at the legendary Waldorf Astoria created the Rob Roy in its honor.
Seeing as the Manhattan was invented in the early 1870s (or earlier), it makes sense why a bartender would put his own spin on the beverage. The Rob Roy and the Manhattan are virtually kissing cousins, using many of the same ingredients for similar flavor profiles. However, the Rob Roy can vary greatly depending on the type of scotch used. For example, bitter scotches can have a harsher and smokier flavor, while smooth scotches will go down easily, allowing drinkers to knock back a few drinks before dinner.
But since the cocktail was invented to coincide with a local play, why has it endured for so long? A big reason is that it only requires a few essential ingredients. So, those who like to mix drinks at home should have everything on hand already, making it super easy to incorporate the cocktail into parties and other occasions.
How to Enjoy a Low-Alcohol Rob Roy for the Holidays
Technically speaking, because a Rob Roy uses vermouth, it still has a little bit of alcohol. However, vermouth usually has an alcohol rating of 15 and 18 percent, much lower than most other spirits. Also, since you're using one part of vermouth to two parts of Mashville, you're further diluting the beverage.
Nonetheless, reducing the alcohol content of a Rob Roy means you can enjoy this cocktail during the holidays. If you're thinking about observing Sober October, drinking a mocktail like this can help you stay healthy and enjoy a great tasting drink. This beverage also works well for family gatherings like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Although Seir Hill doesn't produce non-alcoholic vermouth, you can opt for alcohol-free varieties to remove all temptation.
What You'll Need to Make a Low-Alcohol Rob Roy
As we mentioned, this cocktail doesn't require many ingredients, and you may have the equipment on hand already. However, if you don't have a cocktail shaker, you can use two similarly-sized cups instead. Just ensure they can create a tight seal that's easy to break without damaging either glass. Here's a rundown of everything you need to make this delicious beverage.
- Cocktail Shaker - Pretty much any drink served in a cocktail glass should be mixed with a shaker. This way, you can chill the beverage without adding ice to the glass.
- Cocktail Glasses - Martini glasses are the traditional serving vessel for a Rob Roy, but you can get creative and use different types of glasses.
- Paring Knife - A classic Rob Roy comes with a lemon peel, so you need a suitable knife to create this garnish. However, you can swap the lemon for alternatives like lime wedges or Maraschino cherries.
- 2 oz Mashville Whiskey Alternative
- 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 to 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Lemon Peel for Garnish
How to Make a Low-Alcohol Rob Roy
First, you should fill your cocktail shaker with ice. Let the ice sit in the shaker for a few minutes to chill down thoroughly. Next, add your Mashville, vermouth, and bitters to the container and shake well. Shake for about 20 to 30 seconds if possible.
Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass and add a lemon peel as a garnish. As we mentioned, you can swap the lemon for a garnish of your choice. Cherries are a familiar favorite because they add just a little sweetness without overpowering the cocktail.
Alternatives for Making a Non-Alcoholic Rob Roy
Since this cocktail has been around for so long, there are quite a few variations you can try. If you want to discover more of what Mashville can do for your home bar, check out a list of mocktail recipes here. Here are some of our favorite alternative methods of creating a Rob Roy.
- Make it Dry - Most people prefer sweet vermouth because of the flavor it adds to their favorite cocktails. However, dry vermouth offers an entirely different experience, so it's worth trying at least once.
- Make it Perfect - A perfect Manhattan uses half an ounce of dry and sweet vermouth. So, you can try that with your Rob Roy recipe.
- Make it Apple-licious - If you're okay with adding a bit more alcohol to your cocktail, you can use apple liqueur instead of vermouth. This option works well for the holidays because apples are synonymous with fall and winter. As a garnish, you'll use a granny smith apple slice.
- Make it Citrusy - If apples aren't your thing, you can try adding a splash of orange liqueur to the mix and using an orange slice as a garnish. If you really want to make your cocktail bold, we recommend using blood oranges instead.