The Blood and Sand

Guest post by Joshua Brown, a St. Louis-based, full-time technology geek and part-time bourbon connoisseur

I’m a sucker for “old timey” cocktails, particularly those that have gone out of mainstream favor. I think this comes from a love of the art of cocktail crafting, frequently lost now where the most quaffed drinks tend to have a list of all their components in their names (“Jack and Coke," or “Gin and Tonic”). This affection of mine—born, I suspect, from watching my father opt recurringly for the venerable Manhattan—hasn’t always cast me in a favorable light in the eyes of bartenders. In one case, I had admittedly pushed my luck too far at an open-bar gala. I started with a Manhattan (familiar enough), moved to a Sidecar, and then crossed the line in ordering a Sazerac. This was met with a dumbfounded stare, and then a, “Godammit, nobody drinks that old shit anymore!”

Today’s drink was born in a time where the word “silent” in front of “movie” was itself unspoken as the default.

Rudolph Valentino starred as the matador Juan Gallardo in Fred Niblo’s Blood and Sand (1922); billed as “his greatest role," this is actually not the film for which he is best known. Regardless, this drink is one of the relatively few cocktails that anchor their flavor profile with Scotch.

This particular cocktail must navigate deftly between Scylla and Charybdis -- it must allow the Scotch to speak without causing the drink to taste of ashtray; and it must avoid the cloying sweetness brought on by its mixers. To solve the first issue, I rely on blended scotch, Grant’s in this case. There are many good options here, as well as some single-malts that come from the Highlands region (Glenmorangie, I’m looking at you here). To solve the second issue, I suggest reducing the mixers from some of the standard recipes, replacing the orange juice with a more suitable namesake (blood orange juice) and also adding two bittering agents: Stirrings Blood Orange bitters, and Campari.

The Blood and Sand

1 ½ ounces Grant's Blended Scotch Whisky

¾ ounce Cherry Heering

¾ ounce blood orange juice, strained

¾ ounce sweet vermouth

1 teaspoon Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters

1 teaspoon Campari

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Flame orange peel over the drink, then rub on the rim.

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The Bloodsugarsexmagic

I'm not the most romantic gal. I don't need my drink to be pink just because it's Valentine's Day; a well-made Manhattan will always do just fine. (This was confirmed on Friday night, when my husband and I went out for an early V-Day round of rye perfect Manhattans at the original P.J. Clarke's -- specifically so we could gawk at this guy; the hubs has not stopped gushing about his "bartender mancrush" since.)

What I wanted to make for today's cocktail was a concoction that simultaneously embraces and flouts every V-Day cliche on sale at Rite Aid: The pink, the chocolate, the faux-coyness, the girly-girlyness, etc. What I came up with is, in effect, a chocolate and blood orange Bellini. It's quite palatable and easy-downing; it's nothing too rough/jaded/forward but it's still got complexity; and it'll getcha toasted long before you realize just how toasted you are.

I also took lots of silly seX-rated pics, just because it's Valentine's Day. Enjoy!

The Bloodsugarsexmagic

2 ounces light creme de cacao

About 2 ounces prosecco or sparkling white wine

1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed blood orange juice

4 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

Combine creme de cacao, juice and bitters in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Strain into champagne flute. Top with prosecco.

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