Drink of the Week: Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand. If you notice a sort of philosophic air to this post, let’s say that’s because life and death is swirling around Drink of the Week. People in my sphere are being born and others have made their last appearance after good and long lives, and that’s not all. This will be the final entry in Drink of the Week written before our departure from DOTW Central in exciting Van Nuys and our arrival at what we sure hope will be more permanent digs at DOTW Plaza in exotic North Hollywood.

Expect a DOTW return to a more regular schedule in a few weeks. In the meantime, here’s maybe one of the very finest and also most crowd-pleasing cocktails we’ve done here. And, yes, it features Scotch. Such things are possible.

I’ve been circling Blood and Sand, an infrequently revived classic, apparently named for the hugely successful 1922 bullfighting melodrama (viewable via YouTube), for several months. I’ve been biding my time because I had figured out a true Blood and Sand almost had to feature the juice of a blood orange, a fruit which has a relatively brief winter season. Yes, most recipes simply call for orange juice, but now it’s clear to me that the juice of the smaller purple fleshed orange, which looks exactly like grape juice, is the life’s blood of a truly outstanding Blood and Sand. Regular OJ is also definitely an option, but we’ll get to the issues around that later.

Blood and Sand

1 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 ounce fresh blood orange juice or, if it’s all you’ve got, regular orange juice
1 ounce Cherry Herring
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine the Scotch, citrus juice, Cherry Herring — a very delicious liqueur you’ll be seeing more of here — and sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously as a toreador torturing a testosterone-laden bovine and strain into a not too small chilled cocktail glass, adding your orange twist. Feel free to reduce the ingredients down to 3/4 of an ounce if  you want a smaller drink. If you’re a silent film fan, you can certainly toast the charismatic star of the first version of the movie, Blood and Sand, Rudolph Valentino, who famously had his own dance with death much too early. Or, you can simply toast getting to enjoy another day on this earth and being able to sample this super-spiffy drink.

*****

I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s hard to find any solid info behind my assumption that blood orange juice was part of the original Blood and Sand, whenever and wherever it was made. The recipe that I basically stole from the prohibition-era The Savoy Cocktail Book makes no mention of blood orange, nor does Ted Haigh in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. On the other hand, the cocktail enthusiast who contributed the Wikipedia stub on the drink specifically mentions blood orange juice, as do several bloggers.

I think it’s very safe to figure that the original Blood and Sand had some real blood orange in it and it makes an enormous difference. The tangier flavor of the blood orange, which has a hint of grapefruit to it, is just the perfect balance for the sweeter ingredients, particularly the Cherry Herring. Although my picture doesn’t do it much justice, it also looks vastly better this way — a deep red, as opposed to a muddy orange.

Speaking of Cherry Herring, it is typically used for the cherry brandy mentioned in a lot of recipes. This is confusing because brandy is usually a distilled spirit that’s a million miles from a liqueur. Apparently, somewhere along the way, cherry brandy, cherry flavored brandy, and cherry liqueurs have all become oddly interchangeable with, I guess, the exception of cherry-derived kirsch, or kirschwasser, brandy. In any case, Cherry Herring, a standby cocktail ingredient you’ll be seeing here again, has become the standard for a Blood and Sand.

Getting back to my own adventures with this drink, whenever I used the blood orange, I found it pretty indestructible — sweet, of course, but with a nectar-of-the-gods sort of complexity to it. For my Scotch, I mostly used Grant’s, a very good, basic choice for this type of drink. (I’m sure any standard brand — Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, etc. — will also work just great.) Though some discourage the use of smokier Scotchs, I also found that the strong smoke flavor of Laphroaig 10 Year Old, featured here previously, added a very nice undercurrent to the drink; it also saved an unblooded Blood and Sand from being even slightly cloying when I tried it with regular orange juice.

But that still left the problem of what to do with the still enjoyable, but arguably overly sweet flavor, of the non-blood orange Blood and Sand when you’re using a less smokey Scotch. One decent solution comes from Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. He reduces all the ingredients, save the OJ, to 3/4 of an ounce, making for lighter, more refreshing but still darn sweet concoction. (He also flames the orange twist…but then DeGroff always fires up his orange peels.)

Ted Haigh proposes a slightly boozier alternative which I haven’t had a chance to experiment with as yet. He proposes an ounce each of juice and Scotch, but reduces the cherry liqueur and sweet vermouth down to 3/4 ounce, while adding a super-sweet cocktail cherry to the mix. Let’s all give that one a try when blood oranges finally go out of season.

  

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Drink of the Week: The High and Dry

High and Dry.Yes, Drink of the Week has been away. And, yes, we’ll be away again as we continue our slower pace while DOTW Central relocates to its new digs at DOTW Plaza. Still, I’m finding some time to work new drinks into my schedule between chats with contractors (“It’s going to cost HOW much?”) and figuring out just what an HOA actually is.

One type of drink I’ll be trying to give you more of in 2014 are tiki-inspired and rum-based drinks, at least some of the easier ones. That will partly be because my own interest has been peaked by my soon-to-be neighbors at the mostly downright excellent North Hollywood lounge, Tonga Hut, as well as the far pricier and tonier, but also pretty downright great, Cana Rum Bar in not-so-far away away Downtown Los Angeles. Towards that end, today we have a drink which has just a touch of tiki about it, and which came with a bottle of really good rum attached to it, fairly literally.

The brand is Brugal Extra Dry, the white rum relative of the outstanding Brugal 1888 we’ve featured here on a couple of occasions. It’s unusual for a white rum in that it’s flavorful enough you might actually want to drink the stuff straight on the rocks our maybe with a splash of soda. Nevertheless, we’re about cocktails here, and this particular cocktail is a really delightful tiki-esque treat that would be really easy to make if it were for the slightly tricky business of muddling an apple slice when you don’t quite have a proper muddler handy. Fortunately this drink, created by New York bartender Trevor Schneider and modified very slightly by yours truly, is worth a little effort.

The High and Dry

2 ounces Brugal Extra Dry Rum or standard white rum
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 apple wedges (one for garnish)
2 ounces soda water
3 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Muddle (smash) one of your apple wedges in the bottom of cocktail shaker. Add all of the other ingredients, soda excluded. Throw in lots of ice and shake with great vigor. Strain over fresh ice into a Tom Collins or similar type glass. Top off with about 2 ounces of soda water and add your leftover apple slice for garnish. Toast the makers of fine rum, all over the world

*****

I should start by saying that my version of this recipe differs in a few minor ways from the original recipe. For starters, I interpreted the original version’s “cane syrup” to mean a simple syrup made with cane sugar, which I suspect is not precisely the same thing as cane syrup — a thought which didn’t occur to me until the point where I was just about to start writing this post. Never mind, because the results were fantastic every with plain old sugar water. When I substituted an equivalent amount of superfine C&H, the results were also just dandy; perhaps slightly sweeter.

Also, the original recipe called for just one ounce of club soda. I found that it didn’t matter whether I used club soda or seltzer water but that about two ounces produced a more enjoyably refreshing concoction than just one. Since it’s the only healthy ingredient aside from the lime juice, I saw no reason to be stingy.

All I all, I really like the High and Dry. I found it to be a very reliably refreshing concoction that goes down real easy and will be a perfect summertime libation a few months hence. My test subjects enjoyed it very much and they found the combination of sweet, sour, tangy, and spicy/complex notes to be as delightful as I did. I also found it to be the kind of drink that doesn’t completely fall apart if you screw some small part of it up. Which is my way of saying I forgot to add the bitters a couple of times, and another time was forced to use mostly flat soda water, and it was still pretty darn good.

Image ALT text goes here.Aside from the Brugal Extra Dry, the other key alcoholic ingredient in the High and Dry is Falernum. If you’re a tiki cocktail afficionado, you’re familiar with the stuff but, otherwise, probably not. It’s an extremely sweet liqueur — almost a syrup — which is no surprise as it is made from sugar cane syrup and includes a few assorted spices which wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite cookies, candies, or eggnog. I understand there are much better regarded Falernums out there if you know where to find it, and some ambitious folks even make their own. However, the standard is John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum and I think it’s pretty tasty stuff. (It’s not bad with some soda water and ice, if you’re feeling like a slightly alcoholic cream-ish soda.)

While this drink was created for Brugal Extra Dry, and it’s a truly excellent rum that’s definitely superior on its own to some of the cheaper, better known brands of white rum, I also have to admit I experimented by making a High and Dry with one of those very Brand X rums. I found the results to be about as delicious. Forgive me.

 

 

  

New Year’s Cocktails — Another Drink of the Week Holiday Special

Last week‘s special selection of Christmas drink suggestions were all united by one special ingredient: fat!

While such yuletide standbys as eggnog and hot buttered rum also make excellent New Year’s party favors, it’s possible you’ve had enough rich food during the last several days for a lifetime. So, let’s focus on drinks that might rough up your liver a little but which will leave you arteries alone. And, for our special star ingredient, I’m thinking that we’ll go with that most festive, bubbliest, and Auld Lang Syny-est of cocktail ingredients: champagne, or it’s more or less identical twin, sparkling white wine.

Though a great many old school and more recent craft concoctions feature bubbly, by far the most popular and venerable champagne infused cocktail is the French 75. Conceived in 1915 at Harry’s Bar and quaffed by many of the Lost Generation writers who might have encountered the original and far more deadly French 75 on the battlefield, this drink is a classic in every sense of the word. It’s classy, fun, and — if you drink them in Hemingway/Fitzgerald proportions — will blow you sweetly to kingdom come.
French 75.

The French 75

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons superfine sugar or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Champagne/sparkling white wine
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the gin, juice, and sugar or syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake with vigor and strain into a champagne glass. Top off with roughly 2-3 ounces of the dry sparkling white wine of your choice along with the lemon twist.

This is a really sturdy drink that can take a little punishment. You certainly don’t need to use the finest champagne — a half-way acceptable dry sparkling white wine should do the trick. As for the gin, anything from Tanqueray, Beefeater, Bombay to value-priced Gordon’s should do the trick. Also, some bartenders substitute brandy or cognac, but I still haven’t gotten around to trying that myself.

Another alternative is to go with one of the simplest, yet oddly undersung of champagne cocktails, which is to say, the Champagne Cocktail. If you’ve heard it referred to in movies like “Casablanca,” you might imagine it’s a fancy concoction. In fact, it’s anything but and is actually considered a way to class up some slightly flat bubbly. You can read the orginal post, but making is just a matter of dropping a sugar cube into a champagne flute, whetting it with some Angostura/aromatic bitters, and pouring champagne over it.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re not up for any of the hard stuff, yet maybe you’d like a fizzy white wine cocktail that’s not just fizzy white wine. For that, I give you this alluring liquid lady.

The Italian Mistress.

The Italian Mistress

1/2 ounce Punt e Mes
1/4 ounce simple syrup or 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters
Sparkling white wine/champagne
1 orange twist (garnish)

For those of you who may not be up on your fancy fortified wines, Punt e Mes is essentially a sweet vermouth with a stronger bitter edge that’s almost chocolately; I love it dearly.  Start your Italian Mistress by combining the Punt e Mes with the bitters and syrup/sugar in a champagne flute. If you’re using sugar, make sure it’s good and dissolved. Fill the rest of the glass with your sparkling white wine and add the orange twist. If you’re fluteless, a regular champagne glass might do, but be aware that they’re usually smaller so you might want to adjust your proportions.

****
Of course, these drinks are only a few ideas out of thousands. One of the beauties of New Year’s Eve is that pretty much any mixed alcoholic beverage is in keeping with the night. It’s a great time to dust off such easy-to-make warhorses as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Martini, or Margarita. Just make sure you make ‘em the right way — like I tell you to!

  

Christmas Cocktail Ideas – A Drink of the Week Special

So, here’s the deal. Things are simply too crazy here at Drink of the Week for us to be experimenting with new cocktails over the next couple of weeks. I’ll spare you the details but they involve a cold virus with Dracula-like survival skills, a new and hopefully far more permanent location for Drink of the Week Central, plus the usual pre-holiday folderol.

Still, you readers want holiday cocktail suggestions, and I’m here to help.

eggnogg

So, how do you ring in the yuletide when it’s time for a bit of liquid refreshment? Well, the picture above may be a clue that I’m thinking nog. Eggnog might be a bit of holiday cliche but, you know what, cliches become cliches because they actually work and, if you make it fresh, eggnog really, really works. Yes, drink even a few of these ultra-rich, ultra-sweet concoctions and you’ll find yourself looking just a bit more like Santa in the weight department, but also in the area of cheerfulness. In other words, you’ve got to try this once. For me, there’s no better dessert drink.

Eggnog

1.5-2 ounces of your choice of cognac/brandy, bourbon, Canadian whiskey, rum, applejack, port or, perhaps, any other booze you think might be tasty.
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 ounce heavy cream (optional)
2 ounces full fat milk if not using heavy cream; with cream use 1.5 ounces
4-5 teaspoons superfine or powdered sugar or the equivalent in simple syrup (less if you’re base spirit is on the sweet side)
Ground nutmeg (garnish)

If you’ve been reading DOTW for a while, you can probably guess how this goes. We start with what the pros these days call a dry shake. You combine the sugar, the egg, and all the liquid ingredients, in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously, but be careful of the top of your shaker. Egg whites provide some extra chemical fun that can make the top of your shaker pop off.

Next, add plenty of ice and shake again. Strain into a rocks glass and top off with some ground nutmeg. The fancy people use fresh nutmeg and grind it themselves. I use the store-bought kind.

While some might be fearful of the raw egg, for the large majority of unpregnant healthy adults, the risks are next to zilch if you’re egg is fresh, refrigerated, and uncracked. You took a far bigger chance driving to the store to buy the eggs. Also, contrary to the assumptions of many, there is nothing slimy about a properly made egg or egg-white infused cocktail. It’s also a gazillion X gazillion better than the nog you buy in the grocery store, and I used to love that stuff. This is, however, a health risk in that it is both megadelicious and, as you know, megafattening. You’ve been warned!

If you want to lighten it up fairly significantly and still have a delicious libation, consider a recent favorite of mine, and  a true but still obscure cocktail classic, the Flip. You can read my prior post or simply remove the dairy products, the vanilla extract, and some of the sugar from the above recipe. It’s less fattening and makes a lighter and more refreshing Chrismas treat. Also, if you’re getting over a cold like me, you won’t have to deal with the wonders of diary-related phlegm. Yum!

If you’d like something lighter still and more on the tangy side, consider creating your own tried and true variation on the egg-white infused whiskey sour, say the Chicago Sour, maybe substituting a port or sherry for the red wine float, or the Clover Leaf.

Not sold on the egg thing? Don’t worry, I’ve got one more suggestion.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Drink of the Week: The Elk’s Own

the Elk's Own. I am supposed to be mildly allergic to red wine. In fact, it was the discovery that wine tasting trips tended to give me a mild, brief malaise — somewhere between a feeling of actual sickness and very mild depression — that started me thinking a bit more seriously about the possibilities of hard liquor some years ago. Still, life has its way of surprising you and I’ve found a few drinks involving red wines that I’ve liked quite a bit. They mostly seem to involve egg white.

The wine in question is usually port or sherry, and that’s the case this week with a drink I found in Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail which he, in turn, found in the 1934 tome, The Artistry Of Mixing Drinks, written by Frank Meier of Paris’s Ritz Bar. Like most drinks of this era, it can also be found in The Savoy Cocktail Book. Most of the modernized versions you’ll find online, however, differ significantly from this week’s drink — significantly enough that I might consider actually revisiting it in a different formulation later on. In the meantime, I’m sticking with a minor variation of Mr. DeGroff’s recipe for this Friday the 13th. It’s pretty much the classic formulation in any case.

The Elk’s Own

1 ounce rye or Canadian whisky
1 ounce port
1/2 large egg white
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup of 2 teaspoons superfine sugar

Since measuring out half of the egg white of a large egg might be tricky, consider doubling up on the Elk’s Own and making two drinks. Even if it’s just you, it’s tasty enough you might want to drink both.

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake without the ice. Then, add plenty of ice cubes and shake once more, this time quite vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass or glasses and toast the Elks Lodge. We’re not at all sure they had anything to do with this drink, but I’m sure they could use a salute.

*****

I didn’t have as many chances to play around with this week’s drink as I’d have liked, so I didn’t manage to even try the more stiff/modern style version; it ups the amount of whiskey to about 1 1/2 parts and the port down to 3/4 of an ounce but uses an entire egg. Some other time, for sure.

Getting down to my choice of ingredients, I used an inexpensive bottle of tawny port that I had on hand, but some people seem to lean towards ruby port, which might be another excuse to revisit this one at a later date. For my hard liquor, I went with my beloved Canadian Club on my first try, as Mr. DeGroff specifically calls for Canadian whisky. Later, I went with the understandably very popular Redemption Rye.  As implied by the directions, I made two drinks each time using one large egg white, out of respect for the for the fact that the DeGroff recipe called for a small egg white, and where the #3$#@$ do you find a small egg these days?

My substitution of two teaspoons of sugar if you don’t have any simple syrup handy is a highly educated guess that I’m pretty sure will work. I didn’t have the opportunity to try it out during a particularly crazy week.

Every version turned out just dandy, but I have to say I especially enjoyed the less complicated charms of the DeGroff Canadian Club iteration. Redemption Rye may be the better product on its own but, for this one,  I think you can definitely save your money and reduce the alcohol volume a bit downwards if you want.

As to why this was a particularly crazy week, for starters, I successfully fought of a cold virus through the magic of zinc, drowsy Robitussin DM, no booze, and tons of sleep over last weekend. [CRUCIAL UPDATE: Actually, I wasn't successful; the cold came back with a vengeance the day before I posted this. The world must know!] More notably, I closed escrow earlier this week on the new location of Drink of the Week Central. That means my and my outsize staff of researchers, chemists, molecular gastronomists, expert horticulturalists, and inebriate engineers will be moving over the coming weeks.

It’s good news for the hardy DOTW team and should, at least, lead to better drink pictures. The alarming consequence for you, however, is that it also means we may be taking a week or two off in the coming six weeks or so — just moving all the bottles should take a solid week! You’ve been warned.

  

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