Mixologist of the Month: TJ Vytlacil

This cocktail club owner is bringing Cherry Heering liqueur back into style.

Incongruous as it may seem, the idea for Blood & Sand, an upscale, members-only supper and cocktail club in St. Louis was first hatched in a dark, dank basement.

It was there that TJ Vytlacil, and his “cocktail mentor,” Ted Kilgore, leafed through stacks of old drink recipe books. Eventually, they came across a serendipitous cocktail: the Blood & Sand. Named after the silent Rudolph Valentino film of 1922, the recipe called for Scotch, orange juice, sweet vermouth and the Danish-made Cherry Heering liqueur.

“Honestly, we thought it sounded awful,” Vytlacil says. But after whipping up a batch, he and Kilgore were instant fans.

At his club, where a $10 membership provides entry, guests can choose from one of 10 variations. The Blood & Famine subs in Irish whiskey for Scotch, while the Silver & Sand is made with egg white and ginger- and lemon-infused Scotch. Of course, there’s more to the bar menu than just the eponymous drink and its permutations. It has a Captain’s List, featuring playful cocktails, such as the Anti-Hero Resuscitator. Served in a sealed Mason Jar, it’s a scrumptious blend of Averna, velvet falernum and “bruised” cherries.

Another example of why membership has its privileges: Cocktail accompaniment. All the Captain’s List drinks are named after songs, so when a guest orders one, Vytlacil slyly switches on the matching track.

The easy-to-earn membership and tunes aren’t the only things that set this watering hole apart. The bar also burns through the most Cherry Heering in all of St. Louis.

“We may be the top consumer nationally,” Vytlacil says. “We ordered 27 cases in 8 months. We ran the entire state out for a while.”

Get a classic Blood & Sand cocktail recipe.

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