Johnny “Blood” McNally was a Hall of Fame halfback who played in the early days of professional football for a variety of teams, including the Duluth Eskimos and the Pottsville Maroons. A supposedly larger-than-life sort, this so-called “totally unpredictable funster” was fictionalized recently in the movie Leatherheads. No surprise, but Johnny Blood wasn’t always so-named, he chose the name for himself after seeing a movie marquee advertising the Rudolph Valentino silent film classic Blood and Sand. Now, the decision to chose one’s own nickname is a questionable move, after all it could get stolen by Neil Watkins in accounting, but Johnny picked quite a movie. As one might expect, Blood and Sand concerns a reckless matador who becomes ensnared in a tragic love triangle involving sado-masochistic overtones, concatenations of betrayal, and, of course, a good deal of goring. In addition to serving as the inspiration for Johnny Blood’s nickname, the movie also lent its name to an interesting drink, purportedly first concocted for the film’s premier in 1922.
The namesake cocktail is rather unique in the world of cocktails because it uses Scotch whisky as its base spirit. Scotch, with its dry smokiness, can be a cranky partner, generally not playing well with others. Certain drinks use a rinse of, for example, a particularly smoky Scotch to add an interesting aromatic note, but, as a major player, Scotch tends to overwhelm the balance of most cocktails. Moreover, a good Scotch is a pleasure unto itself, and is best enjoyed neat or, at most, with a single ice cube. The Blood and Sand somehow manages to defy successfully this logic, however, and produces – surprisingly – a remarkably delicious cocktail. Deviating from the standard “equal parts” recipe, we like to increase the amount of whisky to tone down the sweetness.
Blood and Sand Cocktail
1½ oz. blended Scotch whisky (Cutty Sark, Red Label, etc.)
¾ oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
¾ oz. cherry brandy or cherry liqueur (Cherry Heering works best)
¾ oz. sweet vermouth
Even if you don’t know the difference between a matador and a picador, or your fandom of the Pottsville Maroons is limited to their 1924 Anthracite League championship-clinching win over Coaldale Big Green, nonetheless, the Blood and Sand is worth a try.