The Blood and Sand

No, it’s not a new show on Starz about gladiators rebelling against their cruel masters. We’re talking about the Blood and Sand cocktail here, and what a good cocktail it is. Heck, one set of cocktail bloggers and consultants calls their blog Blood and Sand (It’s a good blog, too!).

As with the history of most cocktails, we don’t know where this one actually originated. We know the name is from the 1922 movie with Rudolph Valentino called Blood and Sand, but the drink first appears in print in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. The movie’s about bullfighting, so I know why it is called Blood and Sand (for the same reason the Spartacus series is called that), but I’m not sure why the drink is named after the movie. It might be because it calls for blood orange juice, and the bartender figured that the movie would provide a good name since the drink has to blood oranges.

Nevertheless, I love the name, and it’s a fitting name for this drink for a few reasons. First, there’s the trick of using scotch in a cocktail, which is a bloody difficult thing to do. Then there’s the grittiness of the drink. Something about the combination of ingredients adds to this grittiness in a strange way. Why is that? Well, what is in this interestingly named drink?

There’s an old gag about a screenwriter who gets hooked on the cocktails at a Hollywood bar. He begs the bartender for the recipe but is rebuffed. Finally the writer offers him $100. “You wanna know what’s in a Blood and Sand, Mac?” asks the bartender, pocketing the money. “Blood and sand.” It seems this joke was once considered funny. (from the Wall Street Journal)

It’s kind of weird, but it fits, too. In a mixing glass, combine

  • 1 1/2 oz scotch (I use Tullibardine single malt)
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (I use Carpano Antica)
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
  • 1 oz orange juice

stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.

Some authorities recommend equal parts of everything, but I think the scotch deserves more than that. I like twice as much, in fact. I also like a little more orange because I don’t want the cherry and vermouth to take over. Some of those same authorities insist on fresh squeezed juice, but I don’t do that. I do for lime and lemon juice, but not for orange juice. Simply Orange is a darn good product that tastes almost like the real thing. Sure, fresh blood orange juice would probably taste amazing here, but I like ’em just the way I make ’em, so why should I change?

So it makes for a reddish-brown drink that has a gritty feeling caused by the vermouth and orange juice, I believe, which kind of explains the Blood and Sand name. Whatever it is, it’s a drink well worth making.


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