The Blood and Sand, Carefully Considered on spillcheck.net

It can certainly be said that of well-known classic cocktails, the Blood and Sand suffers from a less-than-cuddly reputation. It could be the name, and it could be the ingredients. I certainly doubted the worth of the drink until I tasted it for the first time.  On paper, it looks awful, which is one of the things I love about it. Modern cocktailing suffers from a number of disturbing trends, one of which is that many cocktails I find in bars and restaurants look amazing on paper but fail to deliver once mixed and served. Good cocktails are good for one reason only: they taste great.  The Blood and Sand is no exception. When pressed, I might even say it’s my favorite cocktail.

As with many classic drinks, not much is known about the cocktail’s origins. But that doesn’t stop the Internet from being rife with details. The most common story is that it was invented to celebrate the premier of the 1922 film Blood and Sand, starring Rudolph Valentino as a matador. Most will also say that it was made with blood orange juice. (An understandable assumption given the cocktail’s name.)  The truth is that the first printed mention of the drink is in Harry Craddock’s 1930 volume, The Savoy Cocktail Book. Unlike modern cocktail books, this volume lacked flowery descriptions of the recipes within it. (Mr. Craddock was probably betting on smarmy bloggers taking care of that a few generations later.)  His recipe was simple: equal parts scotch, Italian vermouth (sweet vermouth), cherry brandy and orange juice.

It could be that the story of the blood orange cocktail invented for the premier of a film is true, simply being passed down orally until later being written down. I can find no record of anyone coming forward with evidence to disprove this story. But, the tale could have just as easily been made up by someone writing about the drink, later to be taken as fact. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how the drink came about. What matters is that it is truly delicious when made properly. When thinking about cocktails, the most important thing to consider is the taste. It all starts with ingredients.

The Scotch

Many people make the mistake of using a very lightly-peated or unpeated scotch. I’ve seen recipes calling for Glenlivet, Dewar’s, Oban and others. These scotches get overwhelmed by the other ingredients and disappear into the background. This leads some to worry that the Blood and Sand needs to taste “more like scotch,” and ambitious cocktailers often try to remedy this perceived imbalance by changing the proportions of the drink to increase the amount of scotch present, and/or using a total smoke-bomb. People who do this are missing the point.

Yes, there are some old cocktail recipes that just don’t work. For example, I will never agree with the “French school” view on the sidecar, a recipe that calls for equal parts lemon juice, cointreau and cognac. I, and most other people, find that to be un-palatable. Then the “English school” emerged, thanks (once again) to none other than Harry Craddock, who published an updated ratio for the drink in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book: 2 parts brandy to one part each of Cointreau and lemon juice. Most would agree this is a much better drink. We should all recognize that Craddock was a good judge of taste in this case, yet chose to preserve the equal-parts ratio for the Blood and Sand. Surely, he had a reason. Indeed, in the case of the Blood and Sand, we should seek not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to grease the axel: What matters are the ingredients; the proportions are perfect. In fact, they are vital.

Let us go back to the question of the scotch. Harry Craddock was working at the Savoy Hotel in London when he published his famous cocktail guide. The odds are very good that he was using something common: Johnnie Walker, or something like it. I certainly doubt that he was using anything light and delicate. (Sorry Glenlivet fans, but scotch makers weren’t widely using bourbon barrels for aging until the late 1930′s. In Harry Craddock’s London, the scotch would have been a bolder sherry-aged spirit). If we use Johnnie Walker Black Label as a benchmark, what this cocktail needs is something smokey and flavorful that will shine through to join (but not overpower) the other ingredients. Ardbeg or Laphroaig, although amusing to use, do not make for the best drink.

Lately, I have taken a liking to using Highland Park 12 in the Blood and Sand. It is well-rounded, smoky enough, but not so bold as to dominate the drink. It plays fair with the other ingredients. Sadly (but justifiably) the stuff is not cheap. Johnnie Walker Black Label works wonderfully, is affordable, and is likely authentic when it comes to replicating the cocktail as it was intended.

The Cherry Brandy

Some would have you believe that the cocktail has always been made with Cherry Heering. Of course it’s possible that this was the very liqueur the Blood and Sand was first made with. Peter Heering’s famous cordial has been the gold standard in cherry brandy for many, many years. But there were, and are, many other brands.

It is important to distinguish between “cherry brandy,” a term used for sweet cherry flavored liqueur that doesn’t necessarily have to contain any brandy at all, and cherry eau-de-vie, commonly known as Kirschwasser, or Kirsch. Kirsch, though delicious, has no business being in a Blood and Sand. I have also seen it happen that, in the absence of Cherry Heering, inexperienced bartenders and uninformed amateurs at home will try substituting Luxardo’s famous Maraschino liqueur. Anyone familiar with both products knows that this is not a wise choice, as the two liqueurs have little in common other than cherries.

It’s not much of a stretch to presume that Cherry Heering was the very “cherry brandy” that Harry Craddock used at the American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel all those years ago. But I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that if he wasn’t using it, he should have been. You won’t find a better dark cherry liqueur on the market today, and evidence suggests that in the past 100 years at least, the product hasn’t changed much. You shouldn’t make a Blood and Sand without using Cherry Heering. Period.

The Vermouth

Craddock’s recipe calls for “Italian vermouth.” At the time, this was understood as meaning sweet, red vermouth, whereas “French vermouth” referred to the dry, white variety. Nowadays, of course, you can find sweet and dry vermouth from both countries, as well as a variety of other places.  But I see no reason to try anything fancy by diverging from Craddock’s description. So, Italian vermouth it is. Punt e Mes is one of my favorite vermouths, but it’s far too bitter for this cocktail. Carpano’s other, more well-known vermouth, Antica Formula, is also disqualified. Although delicious, the vanilla in the recipe ends up being rather conspicuous in the finished cocktail.

My favorite Italian vermouth at the moment, and one I think goes best in this particular drink, is Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, a spectacular vermouth made from a 1891 recipe.  This is a vermouth well-worth sipping on its own, a necessary quality in anything you are going to mix into a drink.

The Orange Juice

Here is perhaps the biggest point of contention when it comes to the Blood and Sand. It is a common misconception that the original recipe for the Blood and Sand called for blood orange juice. There are some who say that this is the “blood” in the cocktail’s name. It’s an odd notion, actually, considering that the red hues of both Cherry Heering and sweet vermouth could both just as easily be “blood.” I prefer to see things that way, with the scotch and the orange juice representing the “sand.” Harry Craddock certainly doesn’t specify anything more than “orange juice” in his recipe. Although, of course, it’s possible that the cocktail’s creator used blood orange juice, there’s no real reason to believe this is so.

As it turns out, blood orange juice is quite delicious in this cocktail. The tart, grapefruity notes of the juice lend an interesting character to the drink. But blood orange juice should by no means be considered necessary, and in fact I may prefer the juice of a simple Valencia orange over it. What is most important to consider, above all, is that whatever juice you use must be freshly squeezed.

The Recipe

To sum up, if I were to make a Blood and Sand right now with my preferred ingredients, it would consist of:

1 part Highland Park 12
1 part Cherry Heering
1 part Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
1 part freshly squeezed orange juice

I like 1oz across the board. It yields a drink big enough to say I mean business, but not so big that it becomes indulgent (not to mention tasteless). My general rule is: Always keep your cocktail just small enough that passing up a second drink would be pointless and shameful.

When made correctly, this drink is nothing short of divine. If you prefer things differently, I would love to compare notes.

Cheers.

Liquor.com Behind the Drink: The Blood and Sand

Behind the Drink:  The Blood and Sand

 Contributed by Gary Regan

“Could you write about the history of the Blood and Sand?” asked my intrepid editor at Liquor.com. “Of course, sir. Leave it to me,” I replied.

To the best of my knowledge, the recipe for the drink first appeared in print in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book.

That’s it. The end.

Unfortunately, that’s all we know about the origins of the Blood and Sand, a concoction that was introduced to me by Liquor.com advisor Dale DeGroff when he held forth from behind the bar at New York’s Rainbow Room, circa 1997. More on this in just a minute.

So if we don’t know its inventor and we’ve no idea about the establishment in which it originally reared its spicy little head (unless it was the Savoy), what else do we know about the tipple? Nothing, save the fact that, in all probability, it was named for a 1922 movie starring Rudolph Valentino, the silent-film star known as “The Latin Lover.”

Valentino’s performance in Blood and Sand—it centered on a bullfighter and was based on the novel by Vincente Blasco Ibáñez—was said to have been one of his finest, though the picture itself wasn’t exactly hailed as a masterpiece. “It is the story’s name and not the story or plot that made Blood and Sand the big hit,” wrote a reviewer at the time. Such is not the case with the cocktail, however.

When Dale told me about it, he said that the list of ingredients pretty much confounded him, so he just had to try one. I had to concur. Scotch, cherry brandy, sweet vermouth and orange juice don’t seem to belong in the same crib, let alone the same glass. The fact is that the Blood and Sand works very well, indeed. But this drink by any other name would taste as sweet. Sorry, Mr. Shakespeare.

Get the recipe for Gary Regan’s Blood and Sand on Liquor.com.

 

Heering at drinkingmadeeasy.com

….Johnnie’s five different blends range from the workmanlike Johnnie Walker Red to the Blue and Gold varieties, both of which rival high-quality single malts in both quality and price. The latter two are definitely sip-worthy; Johnnie Walker Black is an excellent combination of quality and cost, and the one I’d recommend for cocktail recipes. Where White Horse provides a smoky, funky character, Johnnie Black is much more notable for a smooth finish and a scent redolent of maple and citrus, which makes it my choice for a great cocktail recipe that was unduly overlooked for far too long: the Blood and Sand.
Today, the Blood and Sand is a standby of classic-revival mixology; first poured in 1922 (and named after a Rudolph Valentino movie that I am assured was a classic in its own, odd, silent-movie right) and popularized by Harry Craddock’s classic Savoy Cocktail Book, the Blood and Sand then promptly fell into the memory hole of cocktails no one made, largely owing to its bizarre-seeming set of ingredients:
The Blood and Sand
1.5 oz Scotch
1.5 oz orange juice (blood orange if you want to hew closer to the original recipe)
1 oz Heering cherry liqueur (important to use the actual Heering, not a clear kirsch or kirschwasser)
1 oz sweet vermouth
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and shake with ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a flamed orange zest
Nothing about the Blood and Sand seems like it should work, and yet it, like many of the newly-remembered classics, is much more than the sum of its parts. Particularly with homemade vermouth, the drink packs a wallop of cherry, and the finish rounds things out with a soft hint of citrus and an aromatic, almost afterthought, of Scotch. It really is a great example of cocktail alchemy in action, and it has singlehandedly led me to own approximately three more bottles of cherry Heering in the last year than I did in my previous 30 put together.
The Blood and Sand and the Rob Roy are, for me, the two finest ways to incorporate the Scotch-lover’s spirit with the mixologist’s technique; there are others, like the Rusty Nail (based on Scotch and it’s kissin’-cousin Scotch-and-honey-based liqueur, Drambuie) and the Horse’s Neck (an interesting summer concoction featuring Scotch, ginger ale, and bitters), and, once you’ve embraced the possibility of Scotch as a cocktail component, they’re well worth trying.
http://www.drinkingmadeeasy.com/2010/12/more-than-a-dram-using-scotch-in-cocktails.html

Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal

Heering Cherry liqueur was mentioned in an article in the Wall Street Journal where the “Savoy Cocktail Book” by Harry Craddock is discussed. The following can be read:

“the Gilroy does contain gin and dry vermouth and orange bitters; but then there is the fresh lemon juice and the cherry brandy (in keeping with the rule of thumb from above, the tart lemon juice calls for balancing with the sweet Cherry Heering liqueur).”

Also, a Heering recipe is published:

Gilroy Cocktail

1½ oz gin
¾ oz Cherry Heering
½ oz dry vermouth
½ oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass.

Read the whole article at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120734615273490981.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120734615273490981.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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