The Sangre and Sand Cocktail - a twist on the classic Blood & Sand cocktail with mezcal and cranberry syrup

Welcome to another edition of #WhatIDrink, a joint series between me (Vijay), Brandon of Kitchen Konfidence, and Brian of A Thought For Food, where we share our favorite cocktails. You can see the first edition here.

Today’s theme is New Year’s Eve cocktails!

New Year’s Eve has always been a big to-do in my family’s house for as long as I can remember. Every year, 40-50 people gather in our house in Houston to eat (yes, a plethora of Indian food), drink (margaritas are always appropriate in Texas), and dance (to the sounds of old Bollywood) until the clock strikes 12.

This year, however, things will be a little different, and in a good way. Having been recently married and with a doctor-wife, our schedule isn’t allowing us to travel to either family’s home. Instead, we’ll be creating our own new traditions in our own home, in our own city (for now, that’s Philadelphia). For our honeymoon, we made a quick getaway to Mexico and split our time between the big hotel in Cancun and the boho-chic-Euro-refuge of Tulum, just two hours south. My last memories of Mexico, as I’m sure are the same for many of you, were from Spring Break in college, with test-tube tequila shots and the blaring music of Señor Frogs still ringing in my ear.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that was a good time….maybe too good of a time. But on this trip, I enjoyed seeing the other side of Mexico…the real (albeit tourist) Mexico. In Tulum, a town filled with chic eco-resorts and beach jungle restaurants, one of the things that stood out to me the most was the focus on mezcal over tequila in cocktails. Many bars exclusively served mezcal-based cocktails. I’d never really had mezcal before but came to learn about it’s nuances and how it can add everything from a sharp bite to a smooth, smoky undertone depending on the type you use.

The Sangre and Sand Cocktail - a twist on the classic Blood & Sand cocktail with mezcal and cranberry syrup

When we were at the airport, I had to snag a bottle of mezcal reposado (“rested” or “aged” mezcal) to bring back home. And I’ve been looking for an opportunity to crack it open! This cocktail was inspired by several different things – our trip to Mexico, my family’s tradition for margaritas (hey, mezcal is close enough right??), and for starting new traditions of our own.

This drink is a twist on the classic scotch cocktail known as the Blood and Sand – an equal parts mix of scotch, sweet vermouth, orange juice, and cherry heering (a unique cherry-based liqueur). There aren’t many classic cocktails out there that are scotch-based but with this combination, the smokiness of a good scotch is balanced out by the sweet and tart flavors of the other ingredients.

Since mezcal has a similar smoky flavor as scotch, I used it as the main liquor in this recipe. And, instead of cherry heering, which can be $$$ and isn’t that versatile to have around, I made a quick cranberry simple syrup from fresh cranberries, sugar, and water, giving the drink its signature sunset color.

The Sangre and Sand Cocktail - a twist on the classic Blood & Sand cocktail with mezcal and cranberry syrup

To get the flavors just right, I had to change up the proportions but overall, it’s a rather simple drink to make and, might I say, mighty tasty. Slightly sweet, slightly tart, slightly smoky…and majorly drinkable. The name comes from the Spanish word for blood, sangre. And, I figured sand was appropriate as Ill be thinking about the white sand beaches of Tulum while sipping on this. From my (new) family to yours, here’s wishing your family a happy, healthy, and fun-filled 2015!

Before we get to the recipe, make sure to check out what Brian and Brandon are drinking too!

Brian from A Thought for Food is drinking:

The Cider Mill with Apple & Scotch

The Cider Mill Cocktail with Apple and Scotch from @athoughtforfood

Brandon from Kitchen Konfidence is drinking:

Apple and Quince Sparkler

Apple and Quince Sparkler from Kitchen Konfidence


The Sangre and Sand Cocktail - a twist on the classic Blood & Sand cocktail with mezcal and cranberry syrup


The Sangre and Sand Cocktail

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces mezcal reposado
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce Cranberry Simple Syrup, recipe below
  • Sugared Cranberries, for garnish, recipe below
  • Orange peel, for garnish

  1. Add mezcal, sweet vermouth, orange, juice, and cranberry simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake for 20-30 seconds until frigid. Strain into a rocks glass or coupe glass and serve garnished with an orange peel and a few sugared cranberries.

Cranberry Simple Syrup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1/2 cup (4 ounces, enough for 4-5 cocktails

  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, washed and drained
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

  1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes until cranberries have broken and softened. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and allow to cool. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Sugared Cranberries

Inspired by She Wears Many Hats

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 tablespoons

  • 2 tablespoons fresh cranberries, washed and dried completely
  • Cranberry spice syrup, recipe above
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar

  1. After straining the cranberry spice syrup, add the 2 tablespoons of fresh cranberries to the syrup while still warm. As the cranberries cool in the syrup, they will soften just enough.
  2. Add the sugar to a bowl. Once cool, remove the cranberries from the syrup, drain any excess syrup, and add to the sugar. Toss to coat completely.
  3. Transfer the cranberries to a plate and let sit at room temperature for a few hours until the sugar has hardened.