Friday Happy Hour: Sangre y Arena

At one of DC’s best cocktail bars, The Passenger, I recently enjoyed my first Blood and Sand, a delicious Scotch (yes, Scotch!) cocktail from the 1920s. I wanted to try it for myself when I got home, but the closest I had to Scotch in my bar was Mezcal, the smoky Mexican spirit I used in our Oaxacan Sunrise drink.  So, I mixed up a somewhat Latin version of the Blood and Sand, the delicious and complex Sangre y Arena.  – Andrew

Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (4)

Read below for the full recipe!

Sangre y Arena

3/4 oz Mezcal
3/4 oz Cherry Liqueur
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
3/4 oz Blood Orange Juice
2 Dashes Chocolate Mole Bitters

Combine all the ingredients, shake well with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  A cherry or orange twist garnish is optional.  Enjoy!

Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (6) Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (11)

(For the original Blood and Sand, mix equal parts Scotch, Cherry Liqueur, Sweet Vermouth, and Blood Orange Juice.  Shake, strain, and enjoy.)

This is a fantastic cocktail, rich and complex, unusual but completely delicious, with a beautiful deep red color.  The ingredients might not sound like they work well together, but trust me, they do.  The smokiness of the Mezcal, rounded out by the richness of the chocolate mole bitters, leads but doesn’t dominate this drink.  The cherry and orange lend some sweet fruitiness that pairs really well with the savoriness of the Mezcal.  It’s a totally unexpected combination, and it will look great in your glass.

Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (12)

For my Sangre y Arena, I used an aged Añejo Mezcal.  The original recipe called for a Cherry Brandy; I used Rothman & Winter Orchard Cherry Liqueur, which combines bittersweet cherry juice with cherry brandy for a crisp but not-too-sweet taste.  Don’t use Kirsch!  Kirsch is too dry and will throw off the drink.  If the Sangre y Arena is too sweet for you, you can try bumping the Mezcal and orange juice up to an ounce each for a drier drink.

Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (5) Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (10)

The Sangre y Arena – and the Blood and Sand before it – gets its name from a 1922 Rudolph Valentino film about a bullfighter who is ruined by his own success, falls into drink and with ill-reputed women, and is eventually gored to death in the arena, Blood and Sand.  Despite the film’s message of temperance, some brilliant mixologist honored the movie with this drink, which first appears in print (as far as I know) in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book.

Sangre y Arena Cocktail Recipe via Oh So Beautiful Paper (8)

Finally, a word of thanks to everyone who has commented and let us know how much you like our drink recipes, and a question: is anyone out there trying these at home?  Let us know if you are, how your drinks are turning out, and any of your favorites and experiments!

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper

  1. Yum, I know I would love this! Also, I’m pretty sure you have some neighbors with lots of scotch at their house…


  2. they make the best blood and sands at this speakeasy, bourbon & branch in sf. the bartender even lights an orange peel on fire before tossing it in the drink, something i will probably never be able to master. have a good weekend you two!


  3. Don,

    We got the coups we used in drinks like the French 75 from Anthropologie. But most of the glasses we use — these great cut-glass cocktail glasses, these flashy gilded and silvered glasses, and our awesome silvered highball glasses at the DC Big Flea, one of the DC area’s best antique shows. It’s well-curated, very fairly priced, and a great place to pick up vintage and antique barware. The glass we used for the Sangre y Arena comes from a great 60s set of six 6 oz silvered glasses with a stirring pitcher. If you’re looking to spruce up your glassware, I strongly recommend checking out some antique shows near you.


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