Many believe this drink was named after the folk tale of Robert MacGregor or Robert Roy. This is completely inaccurate, although Rob Roy was a scottish myth, he was also a real person. The name Rob Roy, had nothing to do with the name “Robert” or “Roy”. In the tales, he is a Robin Hood type character who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, which was not too far off. The name “Rob” is obvious, he was known for “robbing” the King often and the name “Roy” derives from the french “Rouge” meaning Red. This of course would translate to Red Robber, others claim this person was called “Robbing the King” as seen here:
Gentleman’s magazine and historical chronicle: Volume 1 – Page 238 in 1731
“But what delighted him most, was that notorious Scotch Rebel and Plunderer Rob Roy ; that is, said he, either King Robin, or Robbing the King.”
The Craftsman – Page 13 by Caleb D’Anvers in 1737
“Rob Roy ; That is, said He, either King Robin, or Robbing the King ; though I have heard him assirm, at other Times, that Roy stood in old Language for Rouge, or Red, and that this publick Felon was called Rob Roy, or red Robin”
This would also spawn stories such as the famous “Robin Hood” and many others. Here is an early printing of this famous Rob Roy person:
The Historical Register: containing an impartial relation of all …: Volume 2 – Page 256 in 1718
“but as to punishing their Posterity, that we can say little to but this, That such was the Custom in that Country. It seems, the famous Rob. Roy, who is now up in Arms, is one of the Name of at Clan Macgregor .”
Who was Rob Roy? He was always closely associated with the Scottish Macgregor Clan, which in his time was called “Clan Macgregor”. He would capture villages that had been claimed by the English King and return them to the people of scotland. He was involved in many great battles and by all accounts his name was actually John Macgregor. Here is an early printing of this:
John MacGregor (“Rob Roy”) by Edwin Hodder in 1895
“THE LIFE OF JOHN MACGREGOR (“ROB ROY”) CHAPTER I”
Many things were named after him, such as a famous racing horse, a popular conoe, and a popular american opera. It is undetermined where exactly this drink derives, but it is likely it was named after the play and created in new york, given the common ingredients to the manhattan and the popularity of the play at the time. It surely indirectly derives from John Macgregor.
This drink dates between 1867 – 1890 and contained at least as of then:
Stir these ingredients:
Simple Syrup (Modern)
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.