Monday, April 25, 2011

Blood and Sand Cocktail

On paper, the Blood and Sand Cocktail sounds wrong... Scotch whisky, cherry brandy, orange juice, sweet vermouth? Scotch in any mixed drink is an unusual concept. And the range of scotch - from fireside-smoky to heather-and-honey to seaside salt-wind and ocean spray - makes the outcome of this drink unpredictable yet always surprising. This is what makes the Blood and Sand so intriguing, and so worthy of experimentation in ratios and ingredients. Plus, this drink is appropriate any season (and any time of day). Just add a bit more orange juice in the morning.

Blood and Sand (with kirsch)
I have made a few of these in my time, usually with just stuff I have in the liquor cabinet or fridge. That means whatever blended whisky is on hand for guests (usually J&B or Johnny Walker); sweet vermouth (any will do); orange juice (fresh is best but if all you have is a carton in the fridge, that's fine too); and cherry brandy. Who has cherry brandy lying around? Well, many people have a bottle of kirschwasser on hand for cooking, and I have used kirsch in this drink and I have enjoyed it. It makes a cocktail with a light, "sand" color (since kirsch is colorless) and a slightly woody flavor mingling with the tart sweetness of the orange juice and the smokiness of the scotch.

Recently, however, I have thought more about the "cherry brandy" element. An article in the always-informative Imbibe Magazine piqued my interest in Cherry Heering, describing it as a "ruby-red liqueur made by soaking lightly crushed Danish cherries and a blend of spices in neutral grain spirits, then cask-maturing the mixture for up to five years, adding sugar during the aging process." The article goes on to clarify that Heering is not to be confused with kirschwasser or Maraschino liqueur. Cherry Heering is suggested for adding depth to classic libations such as the Singapore Sling or the Blood and Sand.

So I went out and looked for Cherry Heering, and managed to find it quite easily at one of my local liquor stores. The Blood and Sand using Heering is more robust, deeper-hued (a little blood mixed with the sand), and I would say has more mouth-filling depth of flavor. The Heering on its own is a deep red, and is richly flavored - tart but not sweet.

The recipe I follow for the Blood and Sand is from Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology. It is simple: equal parts. It suggests that any part could be increased or decreased for variations on sweetness or smokiness. Over time I have tried different whiskies in this cocktail, from J&B blended whisky to single malts. For my taste, a milder malt, with some smoke but not too much, is best good in this drink. When I used a very peaty Islay single malt, it was a bit too smoky (though not unpleasant). I preferred a heathery highland malt, which added just the right smokiness and layers of honey to the drink.

Blood and Sand (with Cherry Heering)
Blood and Sand Cocktail
  • 3/4 oz blended scotch whisky (or single malt)
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth (any works, but try using Carpano Antica Formula or Vya, if you can find them; both add their own nuances to this drink)
  • 3/4 oz fresh orange juice (if you find blood orange, that would be appropriate)
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering (kirschwasser works too, but is quite different in flavor)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel if you so choose. 

Bottoms up!

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