Ask the Bartender: What Is a "Perfect" Drink?

In response to my column last week, we're starting a new feature to deal with all those nagging questions you've always wanted to ask about booze (but were afraid to ask the bartender). So email me or comment below, and all will be revealed. Our first question comes from Kendyl:

Here's my question for Maggie: What is a "perfect" Rob Roy? My mother used to order them all the time when I was younger, but mostly sent them back because they weren't "perfect". And, I have to admit, I don't even know what's in a Rob Roy... Thanks!

Ah yes... this is a drink that most bartenders only get to make at weddings and retirement parties. First, a Rob Roy is basically a Manhattan made with scotch (scotch whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters). Rob Roy is a Scottish character created by Sir Walter Scott in a book of the same name and also a tedious movie starring Liam Neeson.

What makes the Rob Roy "perfect:" Instead of just using sweet vermouth, you substitute with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. (Mahattans and martinis can also be ordered "perfect.") For some reason, the bitters is a debatable point with Rob, perfect or no. Old dog bartenders generally follow the rule that when you make a drink "perfect," you lose the bitters.

As a bartender, I sweat making a drink "perfect" for someone and usually ask for a general idea as to how much vermouth the customer would like, because "perfect" is quite subjective (Hence, the reason your mom always sent them back). I put the recipe somewhere around: 1 big part vermouths to 3 parts scotch whiskey.

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