Proposed By: David
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. Scotch
.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.