Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Rob Roi

I never much cared for Rob Roys. It's a decent enough drink, but if I have my druthers, I'm always going to go for the rye-based (or bourbon, if you must) Manhattan than the Scotch-based Rob Roy. It's the same basic recipe and, to my tastes, the rye just marries better with the sweet vermouth than does the Scotch.

I began to change my mind a bit, however, last fall during a trip to London. Restaurateur and mixologist Nick Strangeway introduced me to a Rob Roy made not with sweet vermouth, but with Noilly Prat "Ambre" vermouth. The Ambre, which take a bit of dry and a bit of sweet to create a flavor profile all its own, made a perfect partner to the Scotch. Its recipe includes more spices than that of the dry or sweet vermouths. Among them are orange, cinnamon and vanilla, which really come out when you sip it alone on the rocks.

After I mentioned this on Off the Presses last fall, British cocktail blogger Jay Hepburn offered to bring me some Noilly Prat Ambre upon his next trip to New York. He was as good as his word, delivering the bottle last week. Without much delay, I whipped up a Rob Roy using the stuff and Cragganmore single malt. It was as good as I remember, and I dare say, I will with henceforth find it difficult to interest myself in a Roy Roy made with sweet vermouth. First of all, there's the color. The golden color of the scotch teamed with the equally golden color of the vermouth make for a glass of almost unparalleled beauty. As for the taste, there is a similar purity there. There is a brightness and wonderful simplicity to the cocktail.

Of course, strictly speaking, this is not a Rob Roy. It's a different recipe, using a different vermouth. So it deserves a different name. Nick did not mention giving the drink a name, so I am taking it upon myself to do so. And I have hit upon one that is perfect, if I do say so myself. Roy Roi. As in king. Picture the monarch with a golden crown, sitting on a golden throne. Say it with a French accent.

Roy Roi

2 1/2 oz. scotch
3/4 oz. Noilly Prat Ambre vermouth
A dash Angostura bitters

Stir over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Of course, I know most of you out there don't have the Ambre. Sorry. Start petitioning the French.

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