The Rob Roy (And a Return To Posting)

Proposed By: DavidRobRoyJM

Reviewed By: Jonathan

Thinking of ways to start posting in a blog inactive for nearly three years, I came up with openings to explain our absence:

The Awá tribe seemed friendly… at first.

When our memory returned, we were sitting in the rumble seat of 1938 Chevrolet.

Canoeing the Atlantic takes longer than expected, and soup spoons make poor paddles.

These possibilities of course are all inventions, but the truth won’t do either.

Somehow life got in the way of cocktail exploration.

But now, in present circumstances (read: necessary but onerous self-imposed house arrest), we have the time and inclination (read: the abject ennui) to start again. Jonathan actually proposed returning a while ago and, at that point, I opened my liquor cabinet and took a quick inventory of the remaining Blue Cacao, Galliano, Islay Scotch, Banana Liqueur, Bailey’s, Orange Blossom Water, and Celery bitters. I quickly gave up the idea of doing anything like Chopped (besides, we’ve done that before). However, circumstances (read: time stretching out like the Sargasso Sea) demand some sort of sacrifice at the altar of thrift.

I chose Scotch and the Rob Roy because, of all the alcohol in my collection, it’s the one I universally pass by. Every drinker has some story of a spirit they over-sampled and hence rejected forever, which may be enough explanation for why I don’t like scotch much. A better reason might be that scotch seems solitary and, to me, makes a poor mixer. The Islay variety in my cabinet is so leathery it would overpower the taste of a dead possum, and even the other almost-gone bottle I found—Glemorangie, a gift—is still quite distinctive (read: funky).

However, if you’re going to bypass just ice and try a scotch cocktail, the Rob Roy is a good choice. Essentially a Manhattan made with scotch, it supposedly arose to promote a long-forgotten opera with the same name and appears in just about every cocktail bible since 1890. The true provenance is more complicated, of course, but the Rob Roy is a straight-ahead highball your father and grandfather probably enjoyed.

Here is the recipe I used from the PDT Cocktail Book (edited to avoid brand names):

2.5 oz. ScotchRobRoyDMCropt

.75 oz. Sweet Vermouth

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe, garnish with a lemon twist

As you may notice, the Rob Roy is all liquor and strong, so I punted (read: recalled my earlier scotch encounter) and substituted a crushed quarter of blood orange for the lemon twist. While the juice still did not stand much of a chance against the scotch, it did make the drink smell a little less like your grandpa’s pipe-smoking sweater.

And that’s all the review I’ll offer (because that’s Jonathan’s job this time) and just say it’s good to be back. Our mission is on another page of this blog, but every two weeks Jonathan and I will alternately propose and review a cocktail. We will also add one innovation: every other time, we will return to one of the cocktails already described, try it again, and offer our reappraisal in Instagram.

My first choice for reappraisal is the Americano and Negroni.

And here’s Jonathan’s review:

A cocktail centered on scotch. A stab at the seemingly impossible attempt to make that spirit harmonious with other ingredients and, through that, to elevate. Those scotch drinkers I know would simply ask, “Why?” “Leave it alone,” they would say—good Scotch and maybe some water and ice is all you need. Yet there are plenty of examples where mixologists have tried, and here we are with a classic to try again. Before I review this one though, it is a good time to reflect on the current state of affairs.

Almost all of us are in some altered state of living. We are staying at home, eating in, walking around careful to avoid others and, importantly, drinking what we have. If nothing else, it does seem like a good time for digging out that bottle of blended Scotch that never gets touched. And for hoping that a vacuum seal and refrigeration has kept my Vermouth passable.

It is rare when I am accused of being overly positive. That doesn’t mean I am a negative person. Like many I like to think of myself as realistic. This pandemic has caused me to break character and to purposefully seek the positives even if some of those are found in the amusing and ridiculous. I do not mean to ignore the seriousness of all of this just to practice some mental healthcare and lessen the stress.

One of the peculiar side effects of the stay at home orders are the results of the prohibition on haircuts and hair care. People are starting to show hair colors, curls, and some disheveled looks we have never seen on them. The alternative includes home trims, haircuts and, from what I understand, a run of hair dyes almost equal to the one on toilet paper. It is actually pretty amusing and interesting.

I was lucky and not so lucky in that respect. Just before that order closing those establishments, I got a haircut. That’s the good fortune. The bad part is that it was not a good hair cut which, as my wife likes to point out, is part of the roulette of the national chain salon I use. More good news, though, is that it is not the worst, by far, haircut of my life.

Like many young children, I cut my own hair one day. That was not the bad haircut, however. The bad part came later when our Mother discovered my more than usually disheveled head and asked our Father to “even it up.” It should be noted that I was, and to some extent still am, a pale skinned freckled child. I also had (definitely past tense) bright red hair and a particularly out of scale large head. Our oldest brother very affectionately called me “Pumpkin Head” or “Pumpy Freckles” for added effect. “Even it up” very quickly turned into “shave the child bald.” Still not the worst part though. That came when it was all done and Pumpy Freckles was sent off into the south Texas summer to play outside all day.

So here’s to all those new hairdos that we are sporting until we experience salon freedom. It could be worse.

Ah the Rob Roy (who from all illustrations had a fine Scottish haircut). It is a valiant effort to make scotch play nice. Some recipes call for Angostura bitters, but I took a cue from David and used orange bitters. My scotch of choice was a very basic blend and the end result was a quiet, unassuming drink. The scotch was not battling to get free and isolate in all its normal assertiveness. It wasn’t exactly sitting back either. In the end, the bourbon cherry garnish was the best part. It could have been worse.

Jonathan’s take: I think scotch just wants to be left alone. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

David’s take: Rob Roy isn’t a bad person, just not my type.

Rock Lobster

RLDBMProposed By: David

Reviewed By: Jonathan

Built-in obsolescence suggests our blender should be dead. My wife owned it before we were married 30 years ago, and now I hear its grinding as the complaint of a very old man called to do the twist the way he did in 1961. Still, though we don’t summon the blender often, it works, and the results are better because the old man can still make it around.

This drink called the Rock Lobster (sorry if you’re like me and just the name gets the song going in your head) is a sort of Tiki drink. Seemingly a lot of stuff is in it—coconut rum, dark rum, banana liqueur, and “dashes” of grenadine, orange juice, and pineapple juice, plus half a banana, but the biggest ingredient is ice. Once blended, the consistency is like a smooth slushy, not quite as creamy as a piña colada would be, but just as tropical. The recipe appears below, but, to be honest—and you’ll see Jonathan agrees—the proportions seem a little loose. Who measures ice? Then you just add some of this and that to the pour a little dark rum over the top. Clearly, experimentation is required:

1 cup of ice

1 ounce coconut rum

1/2 ounce banana liqueur

Dash of grenadine

1/2 ripe banana (peeled)

Dash of pineapple juice

Dash of orange juice

Dark rum to top

One necessity—the banana seems integral, as it makes this cocktail less icy and, especially if you have a blender like ours, keeps separation to a minimum. As for the dark rum, you might try a spiced rum. I used Kraken because dramatic signage for it is everywhere in Chicago, but you may welcome something to break up the sweetness and banana-ness of this confection/concoction.

And invite friends. We were lucky enough to serve this drink during my nephew’s Pete’s visit to Chicago with his girlfriend Jenny. It was a suitably hot day, and, also suitably, they were just back from a Cubs game in which the home team lost. We had a reason to drown sorrows even if there were no real sorrows to drown.

Here’s Jonathan’s Review:

RLJBMThe question is whether my thoughts are generally disorganized or if I am suffering from brain freeze due to quickly slurping a Rock Lobster. Either way, I am all over the place when it comes to this drink but here are my iced down musings.

Ever since David proposed this tiki drink I have been questioning how to measure a “dash”. It’s not like we don’t have this measurement fairly often (think any drink with bitters here) but this recipe calls for dashes of three ingredients that seem fairly integral. They are also parts that I would typically go with fresh or homemade over packaged. The all knowing internet says a dash is 1/8 of a teaspoon. Let’s see, should I squeeze an orange, pulverize a pineapple and strain the juice, and mix my own grenadine for a dash of each?

There is more than one drink called a Rock Lobster. I’m sure David chose the cocktail because the B52 song by the same name is one of his favorites and I am guessing he chose this version because of the fresh banana, banana liqueur and coconut rum. Maybe it’s just because, as he suggested in his proposal, it’s damn hot. Good choice no matter why he made it.

As much as any tropical frozen drink this one calls for a straw. Combine that straw with smoothie consistency and banana dominance and you are guaranteed to drink this too quickly. I forgot the dark rum float at first but stopped to add it as soon as I remembered. That didn’t prevent the brain freeze nor did it keep me from drinking this like I thought a monkey was going to steal it. I should have added some chia seeds to slow me down but the speed quaff made for a fun walk with the dog afterward.

My final recipe used a mix of homemade and packaged. The recipe projected as sweet so I made my own grenadine where I can control the sugar and turn up the pomegranate. For the orange and pineapple though I went with a premixed carton of the two. I also erred towards a heavy pour for each of those instead of the suggested dash.

The result was one of the better tiki drinks I have tried. The coconut in the rum was much lighter than the typical coconut cream which allowed the fresh banana and liqueur to stand out. Even with the heavier pour, the orange, pineapple and grenadine were background flavors. Homemade grenadine did help tamp down the sweetness which was welcome. My one quibble was my own weakness – I drank it too fast.

Jonathan’s take: Fruit juice dashes can be more than bitter dashes no matter what the net tells you.

David’s take: I’ll save this drink for celebrations, as I don’t want to test our blender too often. With spiced rum particularly, it’s a worthy remedy to a hot day.

Next Time (Proposed by Jerry):

Yes, you read that right—we have a guest proposal from Jerry “Bourbon Jerry” Beamer, a frequent commenter and fan of this blog. We’ll be making an Old Fashioned Slush, a cocktail intended to serve a Labor Day crowd. Jerry says:

We are upping our game to a level of sophistication as Don Draper and Carrie Bradshaw come over for cocktails! This is a coming together of ingredients, people! What God has put together, let no man put asunder. We are fixin’ to feel the presence of others as we clink our cocktail glasses in celebration of our time together. We can do this cocktail party nice and easy or we can play it rough (listen closely and you will hear Tina Turner coming at you with Proud Mary—that is if you can hear what I hear and I know you can)—just like Tina, I am going to start off nice and easy as I propose the Old-Fashioned Slush** to the cocktailian Marshall brothers. This cocktail is made in advance of the red carpet since you do not want to be looking for bitters and sugar cubes with Don and Carrie on your porch!

The Monkey Incident

Proposed By: Jonathanjbm.bananas

Reviewed By: David

First there is just a murmur. Something is going on but no one is talking, not even speculating. But then there’s more. A rumor and maybe even someone who knows another person who has heard. It’s very possible that something is awry and people are being misled. You can’t talk about it though because no one is sure. Finally it starts to break the surface.

There’s been a monkey incident.

This is a drink that invented itself from a reference that became a name. Like the tag that becomes the name of the band that plays intro to the lead in for the main act. I heard a reference to a monkey incident and thought it should be a drink, or at least an answer to a variety of questions:

“Yes officer, I was speeding but I got an urgent call. There’s been a monkey incident.”

“She could have been the one, but there was no way I could tell her about the monkey incident.”

“I had a drink. They made me wear the hat. And then next thing I knew there was a monkey incident.”

“The monkey incident? Yeah, that could’ve started it, but the elephant didn’t help things.”

“Everything was good. No, it was great. All of a sudden things went bad. That stupid monkey incident.”

When I proposed this drink, I didn’t have anything except the idea that it needed to be frozen and called “The Monkey Incident.” I won’t say I was flooded with ideas, but I quickly learned that anyone who honeymooned in the islands had some type of frozen monkey drink and remembers it to this day, And by remember, I simply mean they enjoyed the drink but have no earthly idea what was in it. But it did have “monkey” in the name.

The starting point was to learn what monkeys eat. Anything they are fed is the answer, but given the choice they are omnivores and bananas, at least the type people eat, are not the first choice. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, insects and even (gasp) other monkeys can be part of their diet. There was no way I was making a drink with actual monkey, so the base had to be rum (the tropical effect) and the cliché banana. A lot of drinks start with that and add fruit (so I am not sure if this original), but here is the final recipe:

1.5 ounces rum (I went with gold but white works)
.75 ounce banana liqueur
2 ounces fresh pineapple
2 ounces coconut water
2 ounces vanilla ice cream
2 dashes orange bitters

Mix everything in a blender or smoothie maker. Blend well and garnish with tiki supplies and fresh pineapple.

Here’s David’s Review:

monkeys2As often happens, my brother anticipated my next move. Recently my daughter and I engaged in a few thought experiments regarding how a mixologist might convert various desserts into cocktails. Then Jonathan revealed the Monkey Incident.

One of our brainstorms concerned Banana Foster, a New Orleans flambé of bananas, brandy, brown sugar, and orange zest topped by ice cream.

“What we’d need,” I said to my daughter, “is banana liqueur.”

Now I know exactly what banana liqueurs are out there.

This cocktail marks a departure for this blog in a number of ways. First, and most obviously, we’re usually working from recipes and this cocktail is new—though it relies on tried-and-true combinations of flavors. Second, we’ve generally relied on fruit to impart their taste, and this time we’re relying on the surrogate banana liquor. Third, it’s frozen… and creamy… and dessert-y. We haven’t done that before.

Though I wasn’t quite sure when to serve this drink—before dinner or well after or mid-afternoon?—I really enjoyed it. At one point Jonathan’s suggested we might cut the sweetness of the drink by including almond milk as well as ice cream, and that’s what I did. The banana liquor was quite a discovery. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of banana flavoring (or any flavoring relying on chemical mimicry) but the version of banana liquor I chose—99 Bananas—not only evoked the fruit powerfully but also, at 99 proof, packed quite a punch.

The overall effect was an adult milkshake, substantial and sweet but also potent and fun, a slice of vacation perfect for the dog-days of high summer. I’m not sure the Monkey Incident actually is a Bananas Foster equivalent—perhaps the pineapple changed it, made it seem closer, in some ways to a Piña Colada—but the rum (I used Black Seal) adds the same spicy element you find in Bananas Foster amid the confection.

In fact, if I could be so bold as to offer an amendment, I’d recommend going further with spice, perhaps topping this cocktail with a dash of cinnamon or ginger to enhance its complexity.

But that may be more polished than Jonathan wanted. I enjoyed this drink as is, its childlike—but not childish—combination of tropical flavors. I began thinking about Baked Alaska

Jonathan’s take: I need to apologize to David for making him buy banana liqueur. But there was that monkey incident…

David’s Take: Hard to know when to serve it (or what to serve it with) and certainly not an everyday sort of cocktail, but a great treat.

Next Week (Proposed by David):

Talking to a Chicago mixologist committed to easily accessible, local ingredients, I heard about some interesting sour alternatives to the absolutely-NOT Chicago citrus many cocktails rely upon, and that conversation led me into the world of Shrubs, vinegared syrups that add a sweet and tart element to drinks. Next week, I’m proposing a shrub cocktail. We’ll be following the formula of a specific recipe that requires bourbon. Other than the necessity of that spirit, however, the sort of shrub Jonathan and I concoct can be anything we think might add.