Blood and Sand.

Thicker than water.

Blood and Sand.

There is perhaps no other member of the classic cocktail canon that gets as much hate as the Blood and Sand. And not entirely because of its unappealing name and muddy colour. People say it just doesn’t taste good enough to sit amongst classics like the Negroni, Daiquiri, Manhattan or Martini. I beg to differ. If properly made the B&S is deserving of such neighbours but the problem is, of course, that it’s rarely properly made these days. To be fair it is a difficult drink to balance but balance it we will, but first: The history. The Blood and Sand first reared its controversial head in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book and was named after a Rudoph Valentino silent movie from 1922 about bullfighting based on the novel by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. And that’s all we know, other than that it’s been messing with bartenders’ heads for almost 90 years.

On paper it looks simple: equal parts of Scotch, orange juice, Cherry Heering and Italian (sweet) vermouth all shaken with ice and served “up”. What could possibly go wrong? Well, typical accusations are that it’s too sweet or that the vermouth and cherry brandy overpower the small portion of Scotch but mostly that orange juice just doesn’t belong in a drink like this. Indeed, it is a peculiar formula that fails to conform to any of the established drink families. As a result there have been many and varied attempts to “fix” the B&S but I’m convinced that it doesn’t really need fixing it just needs to be made very carefully and with special attention to the ingredients. My breakthrough came when I stopped worrying that the Scotch was being overpowered and just let the drink be what it wanted to be. Point one: Let the Scotch be a simple one, not too smoky or otherwise assertive. My mixing mainstay, Monkey Shoulder, works well as do some of the milder blends. Point two: Let the vermouth be Punt e Mes which is a bittered Italian vermouth which will keep the sweetness in check. Point three: Let the orange juice be squeezed seconds before mixing from a nice fresh orange. Strain it too as no further thickening is needed. Point four: Let the cherry brandy be Heering and no other brand. Because I said so. Point five: Shake this cocktail hard and long. Shake it until the shaker ices up. Shake it until your shoulder hurts. Shake it until your fingers go numb. Then shake it some more. Strain* it into a nice chilled champagne coupe and garnish with a nice plump maraschino cherry. Sip. Then, and only then, ask yourself, “Is this a drink that needs fixing?”

Blood and Sand.

0.75oz / 22ml Scotch (see text).

0.75oz / 22ml Italian vermouth (see text).

0.75oz / 22ml Orange juice (see text).

0.75oz / 22ml Cherry brandy (see text).

Shake hard (see text) and strain* into a chilled champagne coupe. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Toast Vicente Blasco Ibáñez  (1867 – 1928).

*Double strain it if you like but I’m a sucker for some micro-icebergs mingled with the slight foam (from the extra hard shake) on the surface.

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