When private membership at bar and restaurant Blood & Sand opened in St. Louis last fall, locals wondered whether guests would be willing to ante up a $15 monthly fee for access to smart drinks and a swanky, genteel environment. Some six months later, the venue has become a hot spot for cocktail lovers.
The massive interior at Blood & Sand has the air of a country club: stately chandeliers hang from 15-foot ceilings, stylish red leather banquettes fill the 100-seat dining area and a handsome bar spans the length of one wall. Yet the impeccably designed establishment is far from uppity and pretentious. Owners T.J. Vytlacil and Adam Frager, who both gained a reputation in the city as talented bartenders prior to opening their own place, were inspired to create Blood & Sand as a social club where guests can explore approachable, yet eclectic, drinks and food.
Drinks that do the namesake proud
The flagship drink at Blood & Sand is the cocktail that lends the venue its name. The bar is stocked
with Glenmorangie 10-year-old Scotch
Whisky, Punt e Mes sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and freshly squeezed orange juice to mix this best seller ($10), with an average of 200 Blood & Sand cocktails served up each month.
Besides the classic throwback cocktail, Blood & Sand offers eight riffs on the original. One of the most popular is the Bleeding Castro ($10), a combination of Flor de Caña rum, Punt e Mes sweet vermouth, fresh orange and grapefruit juices, Cherry Heering and The Bitter Truth Mole Bitters. Drink orders from this section of the cocktail menu are so brisk that Blood & Sand pours through one case of Cheery Heering a week, ranking the night spot as the top consumer of the liqueur in St. Louis. Frager notes that, within the first few months of opening the club, he and Vytlacil had purchased every bottle of Cheery Heering they could find. “We bankrupted the state of Missouri of Cherry Heering,” laughs Frager.
Other beverage alcohol includes a 14-drink specialty cocktail menu (priced from $9 to $11) that includes the well-liked “Grounds for Divorce,” a perfect marriage of Black Maple Hill Bourbon, Averna Amaro liqueur, Punt e Mes sweet vermouth, Campari and a few dashes of The Bitter Truth Mole Bitters ($10). Also available are four beer cocktails ($9); 10 wines ($8 to $9 by the glass, $30 to $36 by the bottle); and 16 canned and bottled beers ($5 to 9). The club recently launched a captain’s list of cocktails that require extra preparation time and specialty ingredients like the Anti-Hero Resuscitator ($15), an aged cobbler that features Amaro Averna, Velvet Falernum, simple syrup and fresh cherries, all preserved in a Mason jar via a hot water canning method.
The food at Blood & Sand is as impressive as the drinks. Executive chef Chris Bork uses locally sourced ingredients to create humble-turned-haute bar snacks, small plates, entrees and desserts. Among the best-sellers are the light-as-air Truffled Tater Tots ($5) and Pig in a Blanket, a spicy House-Made Sausage on a Kimchee Pancake ($12).
Going high-tech with custom-made
Blood & Sand currently touts 550 members, ranging widely in age from twenty-something to silver-haired retirees. The array of beverages and dishes not found anywhere else in the city is a major attraction for members, but for Frager and Vytlacil, that’s all part of an effort to provide a unique experience focused around hospitality. To that aim, orders are taken on iPads and iTouches, enabling the wait staff to remain at the table with guests since the orders are immediately processed on a ticker in the kitchen and at the bar. “The benefit of the iTouch and iPad are that they allow us to be more efficient and streamlined,” explains Frager. “I can take orders without having to leave. I can explain drinks and engage our members.”