The High Life: Blood and Sand on

My favorite cocktail, bar none, is the Blood and Sand. I wasn’t reading Eric Felten’s excellent WSJ column, “How’s Your Drink?” quite as religiously in 2008, but he has an excellent rundown of the drink’s history and composition. I’d never heard of the movie that inspired the drink’s name, but I certainly relate to the screenwriter he mentions later on who offered $100 to the bartender to learn what was in one. It’s one of the few cocktails that include scotch, and the combination is one that’s strange but so delicious that I enjoy almost as much as a glass of scotch by itself.

Instead of learning about it years ago as I probably should have, I had my first Blood and Sand last summer while dining at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in The Venetian at Las Vegas. Not only is the food, service, and decor top notch, but the location can’t be beat. You have to find your way to the elevators by the parking garage and take them up to the higher floors, where it sits in a separate lobby far away from the noise of the casino and shops. There are even gas-lit lamps! It was definitely one of the things that made me want to stay at The Venetian on my next trip to Las Vegas.

Fortunately, it’s not a very difficult cocktail to make …sort of. Just combine scotch, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, and blood orange juice in a shaker. If you’re off in the proportions, it may be a little too sweet, but it won’t taste awful. Even cheap scotch will do, and you can increase the proportion to make it stand out more against the sugar. The bigger issue is the Cherry Heering and blood orange juice.

Blood oranges are typically in season around mid-December, but for the life of me I haven’t seen them anywhere. Maybe if I were still living in California, where I can get anything at any time, but not in Seattle. I was at a cooking class that month, and the chef was very disappointed that he couldn’t find any to garnish the salads.

Eric recommends in his article that you don’t use blood orange juice from a carton. First of all, it’s expensive (I paid about $5 for 500 mL at Whole Foods), but sitting on the shelf also removes some of the tartness that you need to counteract the sugar. If you do need to rely on packaged juice, you might want to go with ordinary orange juice, which seems to stay tart longer (but choose a brand like Simply that has fewer off flavors). The packaged blood orange juice was almost pure sweetness.

The Cherry Heering is also something most people aren’t going to have on hand. It’s similar to cherry brandy, so you could probably find a close substitute, but I wouldn’t recommend maraschino syrup. That would be too sweet and without enough alcohol. Remember from when I introduced the Aviation, maraschino syrup and maraschino liqueur are very different. It’s the former that is used to preserve cherries, and you should be able to buy a small bottle by itself without any fruit.

Instead, if you don’t have any Cherry Heering, try to find another sort of brandy. Cherry brandy would do, or cognac, or even Grand Marnier since you’re going to have some orange flavor anyway. I tried making one with Grand Marnier instead of Cherry Heering, and it turned out great. You can still add a maraschino cherry for garnish to get some of that missing flavor.

Eric’s recipe is a winner, so I wouldn’t deviate from it much other than perhaps to increase the amount of scotch as I mentioned above.

•1 1/2 oz scotch
•3/4 oz Cherry Heering (or substitute brandy or Grand Marnier)
•3/4 oz sweet vermouth
•3/4 oz fresh blood orange juice (or normal orange juice)
•Shake well and serve with an orange peel or maraschino cherry

So the next time you want a cocktail, are tired of the usual, and want to try something unique without relying on the strange flavored martinis they’re churning out these days, consider a Blood and Sand. The name is manly, and the scotch backs that up, but it won’t have nearly the bite you would expect.

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