March 7: Rob Roy

Rob RoyIt was on this day in 1671 that Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair was baptized. He would go on to fame as the Scottish folk hero and outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor.

Rob Roy first came to prominence in the early 1800s when he joined his father in the Jacobite rising of 1689 which aimed to restore King James II and VII to the combined throne of England and Scotland and gained MacGregor a reputation as a Scottish patriot. After the rebellion came to an end, Rob Roy became a cattleman, but his cattle and money were soon stolen by his chief herder. With no way to pay for his land, MacGregor’s land was soon seized by James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose.

He spent the next few years as an outlaw on the run, occasionally robbing from the rich and helping the poor, making him Scotland’s Robin Hood. In 1722, MacGregor was forced to surrender and was imprisoned. In 1727, he was about to be sent off to prison in Australia when he was suddenly pardoned for his crimes by King George I. Why the sudden change of heart? Well, four years earlier, a fictionalized account of MacGregor’s exploits entitled The Highland Rogue was published. This book made Rob Roy a legend in his own time, and the book became so popular that there was soon a major movement amongst the English people to pardon Rob Roy. So, the King was forced to listen to his people and free the Highland Rogue.

Over the last three centuries there have been several loose adaptations of Rob Roy’s story. One of these was an operetta by composer Reginald De Koven and lyricist Harry B. Smith called simply Rob Roy. When the operetta premiered in New York in 1894, a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria created a cocktail in the show’s honor. Rob Roy is a basically a Manhattan made with scotch instead of rye whiskey or bourbon.

Rob Roy

  • 2 ounces Scotch
  • 3/4 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 dash Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or cherry.

Tomorrow: A pirate queen.


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