There is a classic cocktail called Blood and Sand that was created in London in celebration of a 1922 bullfighter movie of the same name. Its original recipe called for equal parts Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering, and orange juice. You all know how much I love the simplicity and elegance of an equal parts cocktail, but as I’ve said many times, it had better be a cocktail in which the ingredients are perfectly balanced or it will be readily apparent that something is very wrong. This is often the case with the Blood and Sand. In fact, quite a few bartenders have spent considerable amounts of time coming up with various riffs that attempt to address the drink’s problems. Some believe it to be the fact that the Scotch presence isn’t strong enough, so the drink doesn’t have quite the backbone it should. Others blame the orange juice or the sweetness of the vermouth. The fact that the drink had some difficulties intrigued me. It’s to be expected; I am a bit of a fixer, after all. I decided to focus on its one big positive: the amazing combination of Scotch whisky and Cherry Heering.
I wanted the Scotch to be smokier and definitely make more of a contribution, so I decided on Laphroaig 10 and I raised the amount to 1 ounce. I kept the Cherry Heering the same. I had picked up a Cherry Berliner Weisse from River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing, NJ, because I knew I wanted to use it at some point in this beer series. The remake of a Blood and Sand gave me the perfect opportunity. A Berliner Weisse is a low ABV (alcohol by volume) wheat beer that’s based on a German white beer dating back to the 16th century. They are typically tart, sour, and acidic, with a citrusy lemon tang to them and a bone dry finish. The Cherry Berliner Weisse is conditioned on sour cherries, which means that the yeast is allowed to naturally carbonate the beer, and the cherries infuse it with a good bit of fruit flavor. Berliner Weisses have been traditionally served with flavored syrups, which made me think of the Cherry Heering and how perfectly the two would work together. I decided to make the beer the dominant element in this cocktail, but not by very much. I wanted it to clean up the cloying sweetness that can be such an issue with this drink, and to complement the Scotch with its sour tang. A quarter ounce of lemon juice helped to amplify that. The final component was the sweet vermouth, which I swapped out for Bonal Gentiane Quina because of its slightly herbal bitterness. It’s the far better choice in this drink. All of these elements pulled together exactly as I wanted them to and I was rather pleased with the end result. The first thing that hits is the smokiness of the Scotch that’s immediately followed up with the big cherry flavor and just a hint of something green from the Bonal. Before things can get too sweet, however, the beer comes in and pulls the drink into balance. I absolutely loved it!
Now to give it a name. Beer and Sand – oh how awful! Blood and Beer – even worse! I began to think metaphorically and veer in the direction of just a bit of a musing two days early this week. I’d been listening to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, arguably thought to be his best album, and one of the greatest of all time. There are many who believe that it tells the story of his breakup with his wife, Sara. When looked at in that way, the lyrics take on incredible poignancy and we can feel the way in which heartache permeates every song. It made me wonder if Dylan had to go through this public catharsis in order to manage the pain of it all. All artists tend to turn to their art when they feel the need to heal and move on. It’s as if the process of writing these songs helped to sweep things clean for him, and brought him some kind of balance, much like what’s going on in this cocktail. Isn’t that true for all of us? When we’re lost in heartache, we all seek what levels us, what suddenly makes things clear, and what readies our hearts to feel again. We just have to be willing to leave some blood on the tracks. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
Blood on the Tracks
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry. Enjoy!