Happy Hour History: The Blood and Sand

Drink Features

The Blood and Sand is a classic cocktail without an origin story. It most certainly has one; it’s just that no one knows what it is. First appearing in the 1930 edition Henry Craddock’s of The Savoy Cocktail Book, there is no explanation of where it was first served, or who first dreamed up this unlikely blend of ingredients.

Here’s what we do know: the red-hued cocktail’s name was allegedly inspired by the 1922 silent film Blood and Sand. The film, based on a 1909 book of the same name by Spanish author Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, stars actor Rudolph Valentino as a bullfighter, who rises from humble beginnings to become the greatest matador in Spain only to lose it all. Though not one of Valentino’s most notable films, the actor considered it his greatest performance.


The Italian-born Valentino was considered a heartthrob in his day. American men, however, were less enamored, preferring the traditionally masculine Douglas Fairbanks as their leading man. Some journalists mocked the Valentino’s European sense of style, and characterized him as a dandy. A 1926 editorial for the Chicago Tribune even blamed him for the appearance of pink talcum powder in a hotel men’s room, citing it as an example of the actor’s assault on American masculinity.

Sadly, American masculinity did not survive the brutal assault.

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Above: Another Hollywood dandy.

Apparently, Valentino took these criticisms to heart so much so that he challenged the author of the editorial to a boxing match, which is apparently what celebrities did before Twitter. The anonymous Tribune writer never accepted, but another New York writer did. The two faced off on the roof of New York’s Ambassador Hotel with Valentino emerging as the champion.

If scotch is Douglas Fairbanks, the Blood and Sand is Rudolph Valentino. Like Valentino, the Blood and Sand is something of a dandy — a sleek, sweet, sophisticated cocktail that takes scotch as its base spirit and dresses it up with the curious combination of sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur, and orange juice. It’s the perfect gateway drink for people who don’t think they like scotch, and an enjoyable change of pace for scotch lovers who usually take it straight.

Blood and Sand Recipe

3/4 oz. scotch*
3/4 oz. Cherry Heering liqueur
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice

Directions: Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist (optional).

  • For a slightly less sweet — and more potent — preparation, double the scotch. I recommend a quality blend like Johnnie Walker Black.
  • There are other cherry liqueurs out there, but Cherry Heering is the gold standard.
  • Bottled OJ works in a pinch, but the fresh stuff is definitely worth the minimal effort. Half an orange should give you more than enough.

Enjoy while listening to this.

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