These two cocktails (the Rob Roy quite well-known, the Rory O’More less so) are basically variants of the Manhattan, using, respectively, Scotch and Irish whiskies, albeit variations using the no-longer-in-favor 1:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth. The Rob Roy, presumably, is the older of the drinks, while the Rory O’More’s name was probably chosen to reflect Roy’s status as a Scottish folk hero, but with, of course, an Irish bent (O’More was one of the principal organizers of the 1641 Irish Rebellion). Nomenclaturally, given the drinks’ similarities, this was a wise choice. Both appear in A.S. Crockett’s The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book (1935), although the Rob Roy shows up at least as far back as Ensslin’s 1917 tome, although with gum syrup in place of bitters. The Savoy, too, lists only the more famous Scotch version, with Angostura bitters, while Crockett specifies orange bitters (as seems to have become the accepted norm) for the Roy, and Angostura for the O’More. Okay, already, get to the recipes, eh?
1/2 Italian vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1/2 Irish whiskey
1/2 Italian vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Almost indistinguishable visually, the drinks are fairly distinct otherwise. Your results will probably vary in direct relation to what whiskey (or whisky) you use. For the Rory O’More, I used Jameson, which is fairly smooth and relatively bland for a whiskey, allowing the vermouth to really come to the fore (your vermouth choice will have perhaps an even bigger impact – I used Contratto on both). For the Rob Roy, I used Pig’s Nose blended Scotch, which is somewhat less smooth and somewhat more boldly flavored. Also, the orange bitters lend a distinctive citrus note to the Rob Roy that is of course absent from the Rory O’More. Obviously there is a lot of room for variation depending on the exact ingredients you use, but I found the Rory O’More to be the better of the two. The whiskey and vermouth were well-matched, with the bitters lending a touch of depth that was much more subtle than the citrus blast brought forth by the orange bitters. In fact, the Rory O’More was an almost perfect cocktail, eminently drinkable and packing a nice punch while offering absolutely nothing unpleasant at all. The Rob Roy was a tad harsher, and the vermouth and whisky seemed to stand a bit apart from each other while the orange bitters led the way on both the nose and the tongue. Five livers for the Rory O’More, four livers for the Rob Roy.