Bobby Burns

Bobby Burns

When I first saw this cocktail, I grinned. Not because it was so similar to one of my loves, the Rob Roy, but because I recognized the name. My grandfather is Robert Burns. It just so happens that he, Mr. Burns, worked much of his life as an executive for a nuclear engineering firm, but my story will veer elsewhere today.

I was told an amusing story of my grandmother, who as a small child was afflicted by a bad stomach virus. Far away were the days of Pepto Bismol, and so the doctor recommended a bit of brandy to settle her chronically aching stomach. Only a half-ounce, mind you. Now, my family is extremely Christian. So imagine the distress on my great-grandfather’s face when the doctor told him that he would even have to set foot in a liquor store, let alone make his daughter drink the devil’s brew.

Well, he did just that. And I’d bet the proprietor of that store nearly had a heart attack when he saw a certain Mr. Ray Charlier step through the threshhold. Immediately explaining his purpose for being there, the owner was relieved and began listing options for different brandies. He didn’t even get to turn his head completely to the brandy section, when the esteemed Mr. Charlier cut him off. “I want that one,” he said, pointing nervously at the lower shelf. I would bet that the owner of that store had all forms of trouble holding back his grin, and I bet you can probably guess by now the brand he picked was none other than Christian Brothers.

Bobby Burns

  • 2oz blended scotch
  • 1oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/4oz Benedictine

From: The Craft of the Cocktail, Dale DeGroff


The only difference between this and the Rob Roy is the substitution of Benedictine for Angostura bitters. Yet, it completely changes the cocktail. What was a touch spicy and complex becomes something earthy and herbal. I think, overall, it tastes like history.


Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology tells us that we may also replace the Benedictine with absinthe or Drambuie, but I have tried neither. Perhaps my readers can do so and comment as to their effectiveness.

5 Responses to “Bobby Burns”

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5 Comments to “ Bobby Burns”
  1. paulNo Gravatar says:

    David Embury also suggests using Drambuie in a Bobby Burns. I’ve tried it both ways, and while I find the Benedictine version quite appealing, ultimately (for me) the Drambuie version wins out. I think Drambuie blends more harmoniously with the Scotch (no surprise there–it’s a Scottish, and Scotch-based, liqueur, after all), and while it lacks Benedictine’s ethereal herbal character, Drambuie lends more weight and authority to the drink. Of course, it’s one of only, oh, three or so drinks that I know of that use Drambuie as an ingredient, so picking up a bottle may fall lower on your priority list.

    A Bobby Burns with absinthe is on the “to do” list.

  2. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Hey there Paul,

    Gary Regan recommended a lemon twist, but after trying it both ways, I think it leaving it out is the proper choice. Instead of molding the aroma into something else, I found it just masked or muddled the herbal smell of the Benedictine.

    The only drink I’ve had with Drambuie is the Rusty Nail, and I wasn’t running out to the store to pick up a bottle so that I could make more. It could have just been made with the wrong proportions, though. If they sell a 375ml bottle, perhaps I’ll pick it up next time.

    Already a reader and I haven’t even made my blog live yet (read: Please forgive any editing that still needs to be done and all the general clutter). I was hoping to list the blog on technorati, etc. in a week or so, but we will see.

  3. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    I (finally) got a chance to have this drink at a bar last night (meaning I finally found a bar that has both sweet vermouth and benedictine…what can I say).

    Long story short, I had to teach the drink to the bartender (thankfully, I had recently looked at the recipe and remembered it). As I tell him, all he can say is “that will be an expensive drink”. The drink was expensive, but so vey amazing. Now I need to go out and buy some Benedictine, me thinks.

  4. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Well done on teaching your bartender a new drink! The Bobby Burns is a definite winter favorite. What kind of scotch did he use?

  5. JoeNo Gravatar says:

    He charged me a double shot of Johnny Red, so that’s what I’m assuming he used (I haven’t reached the level where I inspect their every move…yet).

    I made one at home with some Dewer’s 12 year last night, and that was very tasty. (My roommate has a huge liqour collection, one that would make you proud, so all he needed was an excuse to buy Benedictine…)

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