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Three Ways: Blood and Sand

Just because something is considered “classic” doesn’t necessarily make it good. Take the Blood and Sand, a notoriously problematic cocktail that keeps finding its way onto bar menus. Named after the 1922 bullfighter movie starring Rudolph Valentino, the drink combines Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering liqueur, and orange juice in equal measure, with muddled results. Fortunately, intrepid bartenders have taken it upon themselves to better this cocktail, from small tweaks to reinterpretations. Here are three versions that improve upon the original.

A Better Blood and Sand

The biggest problem with the original recipe is imbalance. In four equal parts, orange juice is too sweet and lacks enough acidity to balance the drink. In a simple tweak, bartender Adam Robinson of Deadshot in Portland, Oregon, gets crafty with his citrus juice by using citric and malic acid, which creates orange juice with the acidity of lime juice. “I first learned [the technique] from [culinary scientist] Dave Arnold, and I think it’s the key to making this drink delicious,” says Robinson. While Robinson uses the acids in powdered form (which can be purchased online or at most homebrew shops), he says a similar effect can be achieved at home by mixing lime and orange juice.

1 1/4 oz. blended scotch
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Robinson uses a 50:50 mix of Carpano Antica and Punt e Mes)
3/4 oz. fresh orange juice
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering liqueur

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: coupe
Garnish: dehydrated (or fresh) orange slice

To make the drink, add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain into a coupe, then garnish.

Adam Robinson, Deadshot, Portland, Oregon

Ichor and Glass

“I’ve always struggled with the idea of orange juice in a scotch drink,” says Ryan Casey, former beverage director at The Dewberry in Charleston, South Carolina. “Three ingredients that sound delicious together, and then orange juice in equal proportion? Why?” Instead, Casey eliminates the juice altogether without sacrificing the citrus flavor. His Ichor and Glass cocktail (ichor being the blood of the gods, and glass the purest form of sand) is an all-spirit riff using dry curaçao and Compass Box Orangerie, an orange-infused scotch.

1 oz. of blended scotch (Casey recommends Compass Box Great King St. Glasgow Blend)
3/4 oz. orange-infused scotch
3/4 oz. Cherry Heering
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. dry curaçao

Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: Old Fashioned

To make the drink, in a mixing glass with ice combine all of the ingredients. Stir and strain into the glass over a large ice cube, then express and discard 1 lemon and 1 orange peel over the drink.
Orange-Infused ScotchSimply combine the zest of 3 oranges with one 750 ml bottle of blended scotch in a covered container; allow to infuse for 5 to 7 days, then remove the zest and rebottle for use.

Ryan Casey for The Dewberry, Charleston, South Carolina

Uncharted Seas

At the Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C., former creative director of cocktails Andy Bixby nixes both the orange juice and the Cherry Heering, opting for real fruit in their place. The Uncharted Seas (named for the 1921 silent romance also starring Rudolph Valentino) gets an extra layer of complexity from a float of red wine. “The freshness of the muddled orange and cherries brings a natural sweetness and acidity. The float of a big-bodied red gives weight to the cocktail, as well as the benefit of tannins, which help to cut through the sweetness,” says Bixby.

1 1/2 oz. single malt scotch (Jack Rose uses Auchentoshan 3 Wood)
4 dashes barrel-aged bitters
1 orange wheel
4 brandied cherries
1/4 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
3/4 oz. full-bodied red wine (Zinfandel or Barolo)

Tools: shaker, muddler, strainer, fine-mesh strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: dehydrated (or fresh) orange slice and a brandied cherry

To make the drink, in a shaker tin add the orange wheel, brandied cherries, and simple syrup and use a muddler to crush the fruit. Add the single malt scotch, barrel-aged bitters, and ice, then shake. Double strain into a glass holding a big ice cube, then top with a float of red wine, and garnish.

Andy Bixby for Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Washington, D.C.

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