Suspend your disbelief and mix up a classic and contemporary concoction that need to be sipped to be believed.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
Purists may insist on sipping the spirit neat or with a splash of water, but Scotch cocktails are a great way to become better acquainted with this whisky category, or to enjoy it in a whole new way. The Rob Roy, with both sweet and dry Vermouths, comes to mind, as does a simple Whisky Sour made with Scotch, or even a Hot Toddy. But two Scotch-based creations—one that’s over eighty years old and one recently concocted—may leave you scratching your head at first glance as to how a mixture of apparently un-mixeable ingredients can ever work together.
One of my favorite drinks, the Blood and Sand, is one such cocktail. This classic drink was first introduced in 1922, its memorable moniker a nod to a Rudolph Valentino bullfighting movie of the same name released. It was published in the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930, but pretty much fell out of favor until it was recently revived by bars like London’s Milk and Honey.
If you’ve never tried a Blood and Sand, a peek at the ingredient list may make you think that there is no way that the drink can taste palatable, let alone delicious. But for some mysterious reason, the eclectic mix of blended Scotch, Cherry Heering (a Danish cherry liqueur that dates back several centuries,) sweet Vermouth and orange juice makes you return, sip after sip. The Scotch gets tempered by the sweet taste of cherries, the Vermouth adds a bitter, herbal element, and the orange juice brightens up the beverage with a little bit of citrus. Whatever the reason (and to be honest, do we really need a reason to figure out why something tastes great, especially when you are talking about a cocktail?), I find the Blood and Sand to be a great foray into Scotch, as well as a fabulous cocktail for these transitional months of fall-into-winter. And, since the recipe contains equal parts of each ingredient, it’s an easy to remember libation for your bar repertoire.
Recently I came across another Scotch cocktail that goes against conventional mixology wisdom with another blend of seemingly impossibly synergistic components. The Black and Blue blends Scotch with Amaretto, hazelnut liqueur (like Frangelico) and Calvados, the apple brandy from the Normandy region of France.
Created by Tinika Green and Andrew Duncan of Blue Smoke in New York, the Black and Blue uses The Black Grouse as its base. A blended Scotch, The Black Grouse is unapologetically smoky and peaty, while at the same time rich and smooth. When I sip this whisky, it conjures up autumnal thoughts of bonfires and burning leaves. Great stuff.
It also happens to be a perfect whisky profile for this drink, since the Black and Blue cocktail was created to pair with grilled foods: think smoky ribs, or pork tenderloin with a smoked paprika rub. The subtle notes from the Calvados tie in the apples that are everywhere in fall, while the Amaretto and Hazelnut provide a touch of nuttiness, making this great to sip with dinner…or afterwards, next to a cozy fire.
Blood and Sand
3/4 oz. blended Scotch (Compass Box Peat Monster is a great choice, but your fave blended Scotch will work just fine too)
3/4 oz. sweet Vermouth (like Carpano Antiqua)
3/4 oz. Cherry Heering (best option, but if you don’t have it a high quality cherry brandy will work)
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
Booze-soaked cherry or orange twist, for garnish
Add all to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a booze-soaked cherry or orange twist.
The Black and Blue
Created by Tinika Green (Beverage Manager) and Andrew Duncan (Bartender) of Blue Smoke, NY
2 oz. The Black Grouse blended Scotch Whisky
1/2 oz. Calvados
1/2 oz. Amaretto
1/2 oz. hazelnut liqueur (like Frangelico)
Add all to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached on her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.