Blood and Sand

I’m both proud and ashamed to say that this is the first cocktail with scotch that I’ve featured. I was privileged last year to be able to try a friend’s single malt scotch and it was one of the best things I’ve ever had! However it’s sort of a crime to mix it with anything, so that’s why we have blended scotch. My bottle of Teacher’s Highland Cream is a unique scotch due to its strong use of “peated malt.” A flavor that can really only be described as tasting like “burnt grain,” which is no where near as bad as it sounds. The scotch (while far from the quality of a nice single malt) does make for a fantastic whiskey sour.

So, flipping through my book of cocktails I was surprised to find this well balanced drink among many of the overly sweet or strong recipes. This particular cocktail had two other variants, but I felt that the one I chose to make represented the best of all three in terms of balance and presentation.

The cocktail itself is visually saved by the orange twist as its opaque and deep sandy brown isn’t the most inviting of colors. The aroma is a strong blast of fresh orange, which opens the imagination for what’s to come. The drink opens on your palette with a mild orange and whisky flavor. It moves to a sweet cherry and vermouth in the middle (however most of the cherry seems lost in this cocktail), and it finishes with the malt of the scotch beneath the complexity of the vermouth.

This is a uniquely complex cocktail which (at least for me) is overpowered by the use of the Teacher’s Scotch. I think by exploring other blended scotchs (likely with a more balanced flavor) a better cocktail may emerge. It’s certainly worth trying and I think worth making again, especially if you’re into whiskies. A dash or two of some orange bitters may also make this drink more well rounded, and a bit less sweet.

Alcohol Taste Rating: 7/10
Overall Rating 7/10

Blood and Sand

1 1/4 oz Scotch
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Cherry Brandy or Liqueur (Cherry Heering)

1 oz Orange Juice
Orange Twist

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

blood and sand

Toro Toro!

 

I should also mention that I tried an alternate version of this cocktail which uses 3/4 of an ounce of the four ingredients and calls for a stir and strain. Apparently with a quick google search this is the “classic” version of the drink. It sports a darker color and slightly more balanced flavor, but the tasting notes are very much the same. The use of more fruit though makes for a better finish to the drink (having a bit to munch on).

Variation: Stir and Strain 3/4 oz of all ingredients into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.

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The Groundhog Day

Not so much a cocktail this time as much as an event. Highlighted as Rita’s favorite drink in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” the simple Sweet Vermouth on the Rocks with a Twist, has become a staple drink to make for every enthusiast out there. Finally getting my timing right this year I decided I was overdue.

For a good “Groundhog Day” cocktail it’s important to get a good sweet vermouth. Raise your eyes off of the bottom shelf and spend more than 8 dollars on a bottle. Trust me for this, and a good Manhattan, you’ll thank me later.

For my day to day needs I go with the Dolin Rouge vermouth as it’s a nice mixer and actually does wonders in various dishes in the kitchen. This French Vermouth will run you around $16 per 750mL bottle, and it’s well worth it.

As for the drink itself it’s been debated on whether or not to use a twist of lemon or orange, but really I’d say the difference is negotiable and adds more aroma than anything else. A good vermouth will have a spicy nose, and a balanced and slightly “sweet” flavor for the deep red/copper color. The after taste brings warm notes of citrus and a slight smokiness.

If you were living the same day over and over this drink might get boring, but for something different on a friday night, why not give it a try.

The Groundhog Day

1 1/2 to 2 oz Sweet Vermouth
Lemon or Orange Twist

Straight build in a rocks glass over ice. Rub the twist around the glass’ rim and drop it in.

“Sweet Vermouth, rocks, with a twist please. For you miss? The same.”

The Classic Manhattan

Looking back through the blog recently, I was shocked to find that I hadn’t made a single Manhattan in the nearly 4 years since starting this page. I have had no excuse to ignore this quintessential classic cocktail, so I apologize for my oversight.

The Manhattan is said to have first been made (or at least) introduced in the United States by the request of Winston Churchill’s Mother in a bar in NYC. Since those days the drink has become a true classic recipe known by even the most humble of bartenders. Plus it’s a great example of how a truly masculine drink can be presented in a fancy cocktail glass.

For a drink this simple if you’re not using quality ingredients you’ll be doing yourself and your guests a disservice. A cheap whiskey (traditionally bourbon or rye) will be far too harsh on the palette, while a cheap vermouth will leave quite literally a bad taste in your mouth. No, a good Manhattan is all about the right ingredients all coming together beautifully.

With a deep reddish brown color and garnished cherry this drink feels both classy and intimidating at the same time. With sweet vermouth on the forward aroma, it’s is as inviting to the senses as such a simple cocktail can be. Masked by the mixing of flavors you’re greeted with a pleasant mellow bourbon on the front of your palette. It quickly moves into the vermouth (again get a good one, you’ll thank me), and leads to an oaky bourbon and bitter finish. If you chose rye over the bourbon I imagine you’ll get of its flavor than you do the oak of your favorite bourbon.

The bite is strong, but the flavor keeps you coming back for more! It’s hard to hate a drink like this (unless of course you’re not a whiskey lover).

Alcohol Taste Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating 9.5/10

The Classic Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Sweet (Red) Vermouth
2-3 Dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Cherry

“It puts the MAN in Manhattan”

Stir with ice for about 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.