From time to time I come across a cocktail which makes me think, '...are you serious?'. Staring at the list of ingredients and/or ratios, it just doesn't click. How in the world can this mishmash of booze work with any sense of harmony? Most times, but not always, I am pleasantly surprised...taken aback and nearly dumbfounded that the tipple is not only decent, but very enjoyable to say the least. As a result, I have a tendency to enshrine these concoctions as some of the most intriguing if for no other reason than their sheer unpredictability. While still the callow cocktail enthusiast with neither the thorough appreciation of the spirit universe nor the breadth of experience that often accompanies those behind the bar professionally, I still consider such unanticipated cocktails as deserving of a special respect. And with that, the inconspicuous wonders of the Blood and Sand.
Beyond the perplexing union of blended scotch whisky, orange juice, cherry brandy, and sweet vermouth, the next quandary of mine was how such an oddity was anointed the Blood and Sand. For sure, cocktail nomenclature is, if anything, more art than science...and doesn't necessarily seem to follow a particular pattern. Some are appropriately named to reflect the components of the drink, others stem from a riff on a related cocktail, while still others are seemingly as ambiguous in their makeup as the platypus. Yet in the context of the first half of the 20th century, there was a somewhat common path for tagging cocktails with names from popular films, plays, or other theatrical productions (the Rob Roy in my last post, a perfect example). Here we find yet another example as the Blood and Sand was anointed as such thanks to the popular 1922 silent romance film starring Rudolph Valentino.
While the noble soul who first prepared this cocktail isn't entirely clear, the Blood and Sand was first published in Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. Initially calling for equal parts of each ingredient, a boost to both the relative proportions of scotch whisky and orange juice cuts down a bit on the sweetness and yields a cocktail with a bit more balance and depth. In fairness, I first stumbled upon this alteration in Paul Clarke's own post on the Blood and Sand in which he credits Ted Haigh as having first published this variation in Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. Absent the Heering version of cherry brandy, a Danish product of sour cherries which spends three years in oak...a reasonable substitute, so I've read, can apparently be found in Cherry Marnier (the brother, if you will, of the more well known orange liqueur Grand Marnier, from France). And of course, simply because commercially bottled orange juice is more acceptable in its quality than prepacked versions of lemon or lime, that's no excuse to use it...absolutely go with freshly squeezed, it makes all the difference.
Blood and Sand
1 oz Chivas Regal, 12 year
1 oz orange juice
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
3/4 oz Carpano Antica
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Given the unique concordance among the four rather distinct ingredients in the Blood and Sand, the boundaries for variation here would appear rather narrow...this in stark contrast to many other cocktails which lend themselves well to tangents off their base foundation. Nonetheless, I was determined to come up with something and simple substitution was what I ended up going with. As one of very few good cocktails using scotch, I wanted to leave this base spirit alone...and since sweet vermouth has a tendency to work well with whisk(e)ys, I left it untouched as well. The result was an uncontrived mix with apple brandy and grapefruit. Having tried it with both the modified proportions as well as the original (4:4:3:3 as opposed to equal parts), I felt that the equal part ratio was the way to go with this. The apple brandy is definitely a bit more subtle than cherry liqueur and when stepped up to equal proportions with everything else, it simply had a better balance from my perspective.
1 oz Chivas Regal, 12 year
1 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz Laird's apple brandy
1 oz Carpano Antica
Shake ingredients with ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.
While certainly not possessing the intriguing character of the Blood and Sand, the Sandstorm is unique enough from the original and I find it yet another nice way to incorporate blended scotch whiskey into a cocktail.