Blood and Sand on

I’m a sucker for “old timey” cocktails, particularly those that have gone out of mainstream favor. I think this comes from a love of the art of cocktail crafting, frequently lost now where the most quaffed drinks tend to have a list of all their components in their names (“Jack and Coke,” or “Gin and Tonic”). This affection of mine—born, I suspect, from watching my father opt recurringly for the venerable Manhattan—hasn’t always cast me in a favorable light in the eyes of bartenders. In one case, I had admittedly pushed my luck too far at an open-bar gala. I started with a Manhattan (familiar enough), moved to a Sidecar, and then crossed the line in ordering a Sazerac. This was met with a dumbfounded stare, and then a, “Godammit, nobody drinks that old shit anymore!”
Today’s drink was born in a time where the word “silent” in front of “movie” was itself unspoken as the default.

Rudolph Valentino starred as the matador Juan Gallardo in Fred Niblo’s Blood and Sand (1922); billed as “his greatest role,” this is actually not the film for which he is best known. Regardless, this drink is one of the relatively few cocktails that anchor their flavor profile with Scotch.

This particular cocktail must navigate deftly between Scylla and Charybdis — it must allow the Scotch to speak without causing the drink to taste of ashtray; and it must avoid the cloying sweetness brought on by its mixers. To solve the first issue, I rely on blended scotch, Grant’s in this case. There are many good options here, as well as some single-malts that come from the Highlands region (Glenmorangie, I’m looking at you here). To solve the second issue, I suggest reducing the mixers from some of the standard recipes, replacing the orange juice with a more suitable namesake (blood orange juice) and also adding two bittering agents: Stirrings Blood Orange bitters, and Campari.
The Blood and Sand
1 ½ ounces Grant’s Blended Scotch Whisky
¾ ounce Cherry Heering
¾ ounce blood orange juice, strained
¾ ounce sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters
1 teaspoon Campari
Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Flame orange peel over the drink, then rub on the rim.

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