The Rob Roy is the black sheep of the illustrious martini family. It is simply a Manhattan made with scotch, instead of bourbon. However, unlike the Manhattan, it’s namesake can be traced back to a a single and specific entity. This drink is named after an 18th century Scottish outlaw.
Born into a family of bandits in 1671 Robert “Roy” MacGregor grew up cattle rustling. As he grew older he adopted the moniker “Roy” because it means “red” in Gaelic, and by all accounts he was a big ol’ ginger. In addition to overseeing several roving bands of cattle thieves, MacGregor operated a protection racket that would charge nearby farms 5% of their annual rent to guarantee that their cattle would not be stolen.
When a business deal with the Duke Montrose went sour, MacGregor absconded with some of the duke’s assets, and then proceeded to sneakily raid Montrose’s property over the next eight years. Eventually he settled down, and even received a full pardon from the king.
In honor of this scotch cocktail in honor of this Scottish highwayman, here are another pair scotch recipes.
- 1.0 oz. blended Scotch
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash absinthe
- 1 dash pomegranate grenadine
- Stir all ingredients pour straight up into a coupe glass
Hair of the Wolf:
- 1.5 oz. Scotch
- 0.5 oz. Kahlua
- 0.5 oz. Grand Marnier
- 6.0 oz. stout
- Shake Scotch, Kahlua, and Grand Marnier and pour into empty rocks glass.
- Top with stout
- Shake Madeira and Violet Jelly vigorously, and strain into coupe glass.
- Garnish with dollop of Violet Jelly
And here’s the story behind it!
America’s founding fathers could hardly get enough Madeira. It is a wine fortified with neutral grape spirits, which boosts its alcohol content to almost 20%, and comes from an island bearing the same name off the coast of Portugal.
Early colonists arriving to America from Europe naturally liked to bring as much of their former lives as they could fit onto a cramped ship. Who wouldn’t want the comforts of home when establishing a new life on a wildly different continent?
While architecture, livestock, and cultural customs transposed nicely, European wine-grapes did not. Thus, anyone thirsty for wine in the early days had to import it, and adding liquor to the wine casks (as was done for Madeira) helped it survive the long hot trans-Atlantic journey. By the time July 4, 1776 rolled around the likes of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were drinking Madeira daily.
Voting is lofted as the cornerstone of democracy, and today there are a myriad of laws in our country defining acceptable behavior at polling places. For instance, each state has a legally defined buffer extending from the front door of the voting place (usually 30-200 feet) in which no one is allowed to do any campaigning. In colonial America however, things were much more lax. For his 1757 Virginia Assembly bid George Washington blew his campaign budget on 144 gallons of beer, cider, punch, and wine—which he distributed among polling places.
It worked. Washington won that election, and no one put up a fuss about it since buying votes with booze and feasts was common place back then. Some candidates would even arrange to have polling places located inside of saloons, and would offer a drink to any man who voted for him. In 1876 republicans in Brooklyn trotted a pair of oxen through the streets before slaughtering and roasting them in Myrtle Avenue Park. I don’t know if there is enough meat on two oxen to make 50,000 sandwiches, but those are the reported attendance numbers for this campaign ploy.
Such campaign tactics were considered the norm until Prohibition killed the tradition of buying votes with booze on Election Day. To this day the sale of alcohol is still illegal on election day in Kentucky and South Carolina.
We tend to love stories about and insight into our drinks when we sit down to enjoy a few. In that vein, I’ve found some fun stories about how sailors in the olden days—both pirate and legitimate alike—have influenced the way in which drinks are enjoyed to this day.
SUGAR CANE was introduced to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, from which rum ultimately came to be distilled.
SPICED RUM resulted from impatient sailors receiving rations of high-proof and unaged rum. Instead of choking down the rum equivalent of rum-moonshine, they opted to enliven it with spices.
RUM AND COKE: let’s face it, it’s rum with a pile of sugar and garnished with a lime. In 1740 British Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon for some reason decided that taking sailors into battle who had been issued rum-moonshine wouldn’t be as effective as if their rum-rations were diluted with water. To make this rum & water more palatable he suggested adding sugar and lime. This sweetened & lime flavored rum concoction took on his nickname and came to be called “Grog”.
JUNGLE JUICE is descended from grog that evolved into punch when sailors returned to Europe. In France they spiked it with brandy, in Holland and England it was gin, and back to rum again when the British navy took over the West Indies.
GIN AND TONIC actually originates in preventative medicine. Quinine is the ingredient in tonic water that makes it taste different from soda water. It also helped the British navy ward off malaria in the tropics. When you combine this with the limes that also helped them prevent scurvy—along with the fun of drinking gin—you get history’s first gin & tonic!
There you have it. Several cocktail staples ubiquitous in bars throughout the world today can trace their roots to the daily life of 18th century tall ship sailors.
The thought of a chilled & refreshing medley of vegetables and fruit seemed the perfect compliment to yesterday’s heat; and here’s the result!
- 1 large Cucumber (diced)
- 1/2 small Pineapple (diced)
- 1/4 cup Red Onion (diced)
- 1/2 Red Bell Pepper (diced)
- 1/2 Fresh Jalapeño (remove seeds, dice)
- 1/8 cup Green Onion (finely chopped)
- Salt & Pepper (to taste)
- Tortilla Chips
- Mix all fruit and veggies in a serving bowl
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Allow to sit for 20 minutes in the fridge, then serve with tortilla chips for scooping!
Forget the sweet flavored spirits out there. What a day like today calls for is a nice whisky-forward drink.
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 3 cups Bourbon
- Soak strawberries in Bourbon 3-5 days then strain out the fruit.
- Mix with lemonade muddled with basil.
- Serve over ice.
Happy Father’s Day, dads!
Two birds with one stone: I would earn a little food-&-drink money and strike an item off my bucket list. That is why I started bartending at a one of the eight bars near campus. At $2 for a light beer and $2.50 for a flavored Bacardi & diet we were among the more expensive bars in the area—which means that fancy techniques and exotic ingredients were not on the docket. Regardless, I fell in love with the craft, and came to realize that a career in landscape architecture was never going to satisfy me like a career making people happy through booze.
I made the move to downtown Champaign, Illinois in search of a more challenging bar program; where the entire kitchen was at my disposal to experiment with and create syrups, infusions, jellies, rimmers, and anything else that could result in a feature cocktail. At the student-bar I unlocked my passion for getting inside someone’s head, and finding the perfect drink for them—here I honed it.
No longer satisfied with the limitation of whatever traffic that walks through the door of a restaurant, I now endeavor to reach out to a wider audience to display my passion, offer my services, and most of all to learn. Cocktail culture is vast, vibrant, ever-evolving, delicious; and becoming immersed in it is the most exciting journey of my life. Through everything I have learned and continue to learn, here is what I have to say.