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Drink Of The Week: Blood and Sand

You just don't find many cocktails made with Scotch whisky. Perhaps it's hard to produce combinations that work well together considering the prominent flavors that are typical of any good Scotch. Nevertheless, a few creations have succeeded, and the Blood and Sand is one of them. I'm not saying the world needs more Scotch cocktails. Those of us who enjoy Scotch will say it's just fine on its own, but not everyone likes to sip spirits neat. Here's a chance to try something that is pretty rare in the world of mixology.

As uncommon as Scotch cocktails are, you might expect a working recipe to look better on paper, so when you see what's in this, you wouldn't think the combination can work. I have to say that if I set out to create a Scotch cocktail myself, it might take me a while before I would try mixing these ingredients together. Although it didn't appear in print until the 1930s, the Blood and Sand was apparently created for the premier of the 1922 film of the same name starring Rudolph Valentino. Now, why don't movies today come with their own cocktail?

Despite being named for a movie, the Blood and Sand is actually a great description for the way this drink looks. After the pour, a thin layer of froth swirls atop the deep red mixture and it sorta looks like blood soaking into the desert dunes. That imagery may be somewhat grotesque, but the drink tastes fantastic.

Blood and Sand
.75 oz Scotch whisky
.75 oz sweet vermouth
.75 oz Cherry Heering
.75 oz orange juice

Add ingredients to a shaker, add ice and shake until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

The choice of Scotch will greatly affect the flavor and balance of this cocktail. Some Scotch lovers would never sacrifice their single malts to a mixed drink and may opt for a blend, but I think you can get wonderful results with anything. In fact, even with blends, flavors vary wildly. I guess I am saying, don't limit your version of this cocktail to one Scotch or another. Chances are, if you like the whisky already, it's going to work nicely here.

Others have written that Cherry Heering is the only cherry brandy worth considering. Who am I to argue since it's the only cherry brandy I own? Is it crazy to use Carpano Antica Formula vermouth? I don't see why it could hurt. One more excuse to use Carpano is OK by me. You will definitely want to squeeze fresh orange juice for this (you always use fresh citrus anyway, right?). As with any cocktail, balance is important. It's possible to mask too much of a Scotch's flavor with the other ingredients, and that's what happened to me the first time I used Dewar's 12-year. Increasing the Scotch is a good option since this drink isn't very strong anyway. Don't be afraid to make adjustments to the proportions. The point is to enjoy your drink.

Finally, garnish with an orange twist, or if you are feeling ambitious, here's a great opportunity to get a little fancy. Instead of using a channel knife to cut a piece of orange zest, take a regular chef's knife and slice off a disc from the outside curve of an orange. You want this round chunk of orange peel to be about the size of a fifty-cent piece. Then, strike a match, grab the peel and hold the match about three inches above the edge of the cocktail. With the orange peel pointing toward the flame and over the glass, snap the peel sharply, squeezing a mist of oil through the flame and onto the surface of the drink! Your guests will love this fiery display, and the flamed oils will cover the drink's surface providing an important finishing touch. Drop the peel into the glass and serve.

5 comments to Drink Of The Week: Blood and Sand

  • Barton

    Alright, mon ami. I finally found a bottle of Cherry Heering (thank you Surdyks) and gave this one a run on Saturday night. It's not bad. In fact, it was quite drinkable. But you know I'd rather have my Scotch unadulaterated (i.e. "not ruined."). I look forward to finding new ways of using the Cherry Heering, as well as trying this drink with a few different Scotches!

  • I'm glad you were willing to be open to the sacrifice! Most of the references to this cocktail specify blended Scotch, which seems like a lesser offense. The Cherry Heering shows up occasionally in other cocktails, most notably, the Singapore Sling for which there are as many recipes as there are disputes over which one is correct. Another good Scotch drink is the Mamie Taylor which is basically a Moscow Mule with Scotch. However, for you, here's a cocktail that is actually called the Barton Special. I'm not joking. That's really the name, and it too contains Scotch:

    Barton Special
    1.25 oz Calvados
    .75 oz Scotch whisky
    .5 oz gin

    Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

  • Barton

    I'll have to give this a go again with a blended (shudder) whisky. I do have two in the hosue, I'm not that puritanical.

    And wow! A drink that has Scotch and my last name! (Though I really thought you were making that up!) I'll try this one tonight!

    TTFN!

  • Paul

    I made three of this on Monday when I had my folks over, and even my mom who doesn't like whisky fancied this wonderful concoction. I think all the different ingredients make this drink so interesting and even though you feel the scotch it's in a subtle way, and the vermouth and the Cherry Heering plus the OJ matches it in a wonderful way. It would be great getting the film of the same title and have this cocktail as you watch it. Thank you Randy for making my taste buds smile.

    • It's one of those cocktails that I often forget about, but so happy when I have one again. It's a good classic that a lot of people don't seem to know about, especially Scotch drinkers. I guess I need to restock the cabinet with Cherry Heering.

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