Behind the Drink: The Blood and Sand

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“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.

Blood and Sand

Contributed by Gary Regan
INGREDIENTS:

  • .75 oz Scotch
  • .75 oz Sweet vermouth
  • .75 oz Cherry brandy
  • .75 oz Fresh orange juice

Glass: Cocktail

PREPARATION:
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Gary Regan is the author of numerous books about spirits and cocktails, including The Joy of Mixology and The Bartender’s Gin Compendium. He is also co-host of ArdentSpirits.com and a Liquor.com advisor.

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  3 Comments.

Discussion

  • Tim McDonald posted 6 years ago

    You know, I have tried a version or two with Mezcal in a great place in Boston and prefer the Scotch based ones by a long shot. I like a Famous Grouse/Peter Herring/Punt y mas....and ramp up the whisky so it is not so sweet. Fresh OJ important too. The Carmen's Tears sounds good!

  • Fredrik Tilander posted 6 years ago

    Well, as with gourmet cooking, cocktails is all about using top quality ingredients. We all know that. To make the best (classic) Blood & Sand, this is what you should use.

    .75 oz non-smoky Single Malt whisky (e.g. The Balvenie)
    .75 oz Cherry Heering (THE best cherry brandy/liqueur on the market)
    .75 oz Antica Formula Vermouth
    .75 oz FRESHLY squeezed orange juice

    Shake'n strain as described above!

    Cheers!

  • Christopher Carlsson posted 6 years ago

    Back about 6 years ago we came up with a variation of the Blood and Sand called Authentic Blood and Sand (because it used the much more locally available mezcal instead of scotch) along with some significant variations on the theme.
    Below are a few of them for your consideration:Authentic Blood and Sand
    created by Chris Carlsson, SpiritsReview.com

    1 oz Scorpion Silver Mezcal or Mijes Joven
    1 oz Orange Juice
    3/4 oz Cherry Liqueur (Cherry Herring or Cherry Marnier)
    3/4 oz of Sweet (Red) Vermouth

    Combine in shaker over ice, shake 20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with Maraschino cherry. Enjoy!

    Note: The original version was based on the 1922 silent Rudolph Valentino movie about bullfighting. First recording of recipe was 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book which uses Scotch, as no one knew what mezcal was back then if they were north of Texas. This version attempts to address that.

    Variations on the Theme:
    Use 1/4-1/2 oz Cassis instead of Cherry Liqueur (Unnamed)
    Use 1/4-1/2 oz Creme de Yvette instead of Cherry Liqueur (Unnamed)
    Dryer version of Blood and Sand
    created by Chris Carlsson, SpiritsReview.com

    1 oz Scorpion Silver Mezcal or Mijes Joven
    1 oz Orange Juice
    3/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
    3/4 oz of Sweet (Red) Vermouth

    Combine in shaker over ice, shake 20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with Maraschino cherry. Enjoy!

    Carmen's Tears (a dry, clear version)
    created by Chris Carlsson, SpiritsReview.com

    1 oz Scorpion Silver Mezcal or Mijes Joven
    3/4 oz Maraschino Liquour
    3/4 oz Dry (White) Vermouth
    2 Dashes Oranges Bitters (Regans No. 6 recommended) Combine in shaker over ice, shake 20 seconds.
    Strain into chilled cocktail glass,
    Garnish with Maraschino cherry.
    Enjoy!


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