I’ve always had trouble with Scotch whisky when it comes to making cocktails. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this—the long history of cocktailing has only managed to come up with a handful of Scotch-based cocktails that have any semblance of balance and finesse.
The first cocktail I learned to make was the Whiskey Sour. I made it with Scotch, which was a very poor choice, but I was just out of college and didn’t know better. It’s gratifying to discover, in retrospect, that even then I had enough wits about me to think that tinkering with the mix might lead to a worthwhile improvement in flavor. It took forever to realize that the problem was the Scotch. Well, it was too much lemon, too, but at least I finally figured it out.
Hangovers have been around forever, so it’s not surprising that one of the most popular branches of amateur medicine is the hangover “cure.”
I’ve never been a follower of American horse racing, but I do enjoy the hype and pageantry of the three-race set known as the “Triple Crown” — in the US, it’s the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.
The Kentucky Derby falls near my birthday, so for decades my birthday partly has been a Derby-watching event, replete with fancy outfits, good hats and, especially, whiskey juleps. The Mint Julep is the universally accepted symbol of the Derby, and the Run for the Roses starts the ice-crushing the season right.
I wouldn’t normally write about the Blood and Sand Cocktail.
I don’t like it. I’ve never met anyone who likes it. The flavors make no sense to me. Four ingredients, all fighting with each other.
Harry Craddock must have seen something in it when he first published its peculiar formula in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. And drinkers with palates different from mine must like it, as evidenced by its continued presence in highly respected bar manuals more than eighty years after its creation.
(And, of course, there’s the theatrical value of that lurid name, riding the coattails of Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 movie. I’ll admit, that’s really good.)
But from my palate’s point of view, the Blood and Sand is really broken. So what makes this cocktail worth writing about?
In abstract terms, you could think of the Sazerac as an Old-Fashioned with a strongly aromatic rinse on the glass. Typically, it’s made with rye whiskey or cognac, but Phil Ward’s Cooper Union cocktail, though it looks like a Sazerac, is all about malt whiskey.
There have been many drinks bearing the name Automobile Cocktail. Two of them are particularly interesting.
As the saying goes, “myth and legend are the kudzu of history,” and cocktail history is as much overgrown as any.
Today’s case in point: the pre-Prohibition Ward 8 Cocktail, one of the most famous of classic whiskey sour variations.