A Toast to Longevity—Rediscovering “Real” Cocktails

I went on a whirlwind trip to Missouri this past weekend to visit my 99-year-old grandmother. Her secret? A daily diet of meat, potatoes, chocolate and a stiff 5 o’clock happy hour drink.

Women of her era weren’t drinking low calorie beer and frou-frou drinks. They shook up real deal cocktails like Tom Collins, Side Cars, Whisky Sours, and Grandma’s long-time choice, a Rob Roy. Never heard of these drinks? Now’s the time to hold onto your barstool, because just like the Mad Men craze, these drinks are coming back in vogue.

Similar to a Manhattan, a Rob Roy is made with 1.5 oz. Scotch whisky and .5 oz. sweet vermouth, and depending on your preference, topped off with a few bitters, maraschino cherries and a splash of cherry juice. The drink first came about in 1890 and is named after the Scottish folk hero Robert Roy MacGregor.

Grandma was in her early 20’s when prohibition came to an end, so it’s no wonder her generation is partial to whiskey and other hard alcohols. It took decades for the wine and beer industries to recover from the ban. The vast variety of wines and microbrews that we have access to today just weren’t available. In fact happy hour drinks were such a serious matter then, my Grandpa would tote their liquors in a handy suitcase whenever the family would embark on vacation.

Be aware that not every bartender may know drinks like a Roy Roy. While out to dinner in the Midwest, we had to instruct our server each night on how to craft the Rob Roy.

But with the sophisticated, traditional drinking habits of the Main Line, it should be no problem to have these classics made at most restaurants around here. Classic cocktails like these aren’t typically listed on the restaurant menu (I checked). They’re drinks you’ll have to ask for by name. Ask at American and more traditional establishments like White Dog Café Wayne, Creed’s Seafood & Steaks, Georges’ or Tango.  The bartender – if s/he is seasoned – shouldn’t stare strangely at you.

So my challenge to you is this: Next time you’re out for a happy hour, nix the green apple martini, grab on to that bar stool and order up a real cocktail. You just might make it to 99+ years too.

One Comment