There aren’t very many Scotch-based cocktails out there, and maybe for good reason. Scotch is a complex beast and it doesn’t always play well with others. In any case, a good single-malt scotch is best enjoyed on its own terms. But as this drink proves, even Scotch can be the basis for an excellent mixed beverage. This one comes from The Savoy Cocktail Book, but it’s by no means an uncommon drink and you should find it in most decent bartending guides, with some minor variations to the recipe.
I would suggest a decent blended Scotch here; no point in burying the complexity of a single-malt in something like this, but you certainly can if you want. Just stay away from anything especially peaty. And, as always, fresh-squeezed juice!
On to the recipe, after one quick note – The Savoy guide lists everything in fractions, for the most part. So it’s up to you to decide what those fractions are going to represent. It’s actually a nice system; it makes it very easy to scale recipes up or down while keeping your proportions straight. In this case, the book lists the Blood and Sand’s four ingredients as “1/4” each, meaning, effectively, equal parts of each ingredient.
1 oz. orange juice
1 oz. Scotch
1 oz. cherry brandy*
1 oz. sweet (Italian) vermouth**
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice; shake vigorously; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The Blood and Sand does exactly what a cocktail is supposed to. While you can pick out the individual flavors of each of the four ingredients, the net result is that they combine into a whole greater than their individual parts. It’s not too strong; it’s not too sweet; it is damn near perfect. This is a stellar cocktail, and next time you have people over for drinks, I urge you to whip up a batch. Your guests will be impressed. Five livers.
*Cherry brandy covers a wide range of liqueurs that can run the gamut from excellent to blecch. While the easiest to find are offerings from Bols or Hiram Walker, these are little more than artificially colored and flavored grain neutral spirits, with a flavor not unlike the syrup you’d put on a sno-cone, albeit with some alcohol thrown in. You also, in this instance, want to avoid the very dry eau-de-vies, such as Maraschino or Kirsch. While these products are must-haves for any well-stocked bar, and while they are technically cherry brandies, they aren’t what you want when cherry brandy is called for. The best option, in my opinion, is a product called Cherry Heering, which has a rich black cherry flavor that blends much more suitably in mixed drinks than the cheaper bright red offerings mentioned above. Trust me on this one.
** Sweet or Italian vermouth is the red stuff; dry or French vermouth is the white stuff.