The Citrusy Scotch Cocktail Inspired by the Rudolph Valentino Film: How to Make a Blood and Sand

The Citrusy Scotch Cocktail Inspired by the Rudolph Valentino Film: How to Make a Blood and Sand
Courtesy of The Lakes Distillery‍

Drinks like this are far better than their reputation suggests.

Despite being one of the most classic cocktails out there, the Blood and Sand isn't often mentioned. There are, however, two places you can guarantee to find it. The first is on every list of scotch-based classics, because they aren't that many. The second is on any list of the so-called "worst" classic cocktails out there. Bartenders hate it because it's such an unpopular drink.

There are many defenders of the Blood and Sand, but there are also many who treat it like a shooting gallery. So, what is it that people hate about it?

As for the Blood and Sand cocktail, let me simply point out that there is nothing wrong with it and that it is an interesting and impressive cocktail. Despite the fact that I hesitate to call these contrarians wrong per se, I will do so, since they are incorrect. The Blood and Sand is excellent. Great. Delicious. So the question is, what is their issue?

It was first published in 1930 in the Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, and is based on a Rudolph Valentino bullfighting film in 1922. Scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur, and orange juice are all equal parts of the original recipe, which gives us a clue. It sounds gross to use four ingredients in a cocktail, so this is the first big problem people have with the Blood and Sand.

According to the classic equal-part proportions, is this cocktail too sweet according to the complaint of orange juice lacking enough acidity?

Courtesy of Mr Yum

In the 1930s, Craddock got oranges in London that were more acidic than the juicy bombs we get today, so that makes sense, but it certainly can be. Well, that obviously depends on the sugar levels of your orange juice. That's not unfixable, is it? Bartenders who otherwise are intelligent don't seem to know how to balance a drink with too much sweetness, as if reducing the amount of sweet ingredients simply hadn't occurred to them.

The cocktail can cloy if you are forced to use the exact proportions for a 92-year-old recipe while using modern ingredients, but even then, I insist, it tastes great. You can make it much less cloying if you reduce the sweet vermouth and cherry liqueur by 0.25 ounce. By adding a quarter teaspoon of lemon juice, the lack of acidity becomes officially nonexistent and you can concentrate on the drink's impressive flavor.

As a result of its maltiness, depth and fruitiness at once, the Blood and Sand cocktail is one of those cocktails that synergize magically into something new. As well as working together, the flavors lock together so tightly that you can't find their seams, as if they were any cocktail in the canon. 

Try it for yourself and see.

Blood and Sand

  • 1 oz. scotch
  • 0.75 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 0.75  oz. Cherry Heering
  • 1 oz. fresh orange juice
  • .25 tsp. lemon juice

Shake everything with ice for 12-15 seconds. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel.


Courtesy of Compass Box

Blended scotch is a perfect match for this drink. I recommend the Great King Street blend from Compass Box as well as Monkey Shoulder, a blended malt that tastes like whatever your grandfather liked (Chivas, Dewars, etc.). If you're a smoke fan, I'd recommend the monsters from Islay, but for me, the monsters are overkill, so I'd recommend Famous Grouse or Johnnie Walker Black. Avoid scotches finished in sherry or port barrels; the extra richness is unwelcome.

An essential for any well-stocked bar is Cherry Heering, a Danish cherry liqueur that has been made for over 200 years.

This cocktail is terrible if you use purchased juice or yesterday's juice. If you use yesterday's juice or purchased juice, this cocktail will be terrible. 

We tried a wide range of sweet vermouths, and it proved difficult to identify a favorite. We liked Dolin Rouge as a sweet vermouth, but I preferred its richer vanilla kiss over Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, which surprises us all.

If you add too much lemon juice, this cocktail will fall apart. While a small amount will help with the sweetness, excess acidity will ruin this cocktail. Citric acid is found in oranges, but it is about five times less than in lemons, so this tiny amount of lemon juice mimics a more acidic orange. When we say 14 tablespoons, we mean it. That's what we recommend.

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