What is Brandy Crusta?
In the forerunner of the modern Sidecar is the crusta, specifically the Brandy Crusta. There are also Margaritas. A Cosmopolitan is also available.
However, the cocktail prototype is quite different from the more familiar ones. Ingredients are there, but the proportions almost seem unrecognizable: in the crusta, citrus flavor is barely discernible, and sweetener is minimal; both are measured in mere dashes.
The modern sour does not have the 2:1:1 proportion.
The crusta is basically a glass of liquor with a little bit of flavoring topped off with a unique garnish.
The recipe was first published by Jerry Thomas, but cocktail historians believe that Joseph Santini probably picked it up sometime in the 1850s. Imagine if Thomas hadn’t considered it interesting enough to include in How to Mix Drinks if we weren’t discussing it now.
One of Santini’s first experiments with liqueur was in his crusta, which he sweetened with liqueur and lemon juice, one of the most important additions.
Many of our drink categories were created in the 1850s and 1860s, particularly the sour drinks.
One of the early attempts to combine spirits, citrus and sweeteners to create a delicious cocktail was the crusta.
Almost a proto-sour, it sits somewhere between the traditional cocktail and the sour.
It is probably Santini’s citrus dash that has been his most lasting contribution to cocktailing, but it is the presentation of the crusta that is its most distinguishing feature.
Starting with Santini’s Crusta, the wine glass was a stemmed wine glass with a sugared rim, rather than a plain bar glass.
There were already stemmed glasses and sugar rims in the “fancy cocktail” repertoire, but they weren’t part of the mainstream.
Added to the drink’s singularity was its ostentatious garnish: the peeled shell of a half of a lemon that lined the glass.
It was a combination of flavors – the lemon in the drink, offset by the liqueur sweetener, the lemon shell, and the sugared fancy glass wrapping it all up – that made it unique.
Joseph Santini, a Trieste native, opened his saloon on Gravier Street in the American Quarter in 1855, the Jewel of the South, either at the City Exchange in the French Quarter, or at the City Exchange in New Orleans in the 1850s.
Around the rim of the cup, there is a crust of sugar. People often consider the Sidecar to be the precursor to a Margarita, sugar rim and all. Santini is wrongly credited as of Spanish origins and spelled Santana in the world’s first cocktail book, Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bar-Tender’s Guide, in which the Brandy Crusta takes its place as an iconic member of cocktail royalty.
What is the best way to make the beautiful Brandy Crusta cocktail?
Joseph Santini, an Italian bartender in New Orleans, invented the Crusta in the 1850s. Originally, the recipe calls for spirit, bitters, sugar, and water, but adds a squeeze of lemon, so it is actually much more spirit-forward than its related cocktail, the Sidecar.
Having a fancy glass to serve it in makes it taste even better, so if you have an over the top garnish and glassware, you can really set it apart.
Since it uses such a rich base spirit and both curacao and maraschino, I have upped the lemon juice a bit.
The addition of maraschino came a little later in the life of this cocktail,
but I have decided to include it because this brandy has such awesome red fruit flavours and it enhances them, so it isn’t necessary to make a tasty version of this cocktail.
Despite its small amount, it does not add too much sweetness to the finished product, as it actually has a rather dry finish.
- Brandy, 60ml (2oz)
- Dry Curacao 15ml (1/2oz)
- Fresh lemon juice, 15ml (1/2oz)
- Maraschino liqueur, 10ml (1/3oz) (optional)
- Angostura bitters, 2 dashes
- Garnish with powdered sugar
- Garnish with a long lemon twist
- The jigger
- Tins for shakers
- Hawthorne strainer
- An excellent strainer
- Glasses with a fancy design
Shake off any excess powdered sugar after dabbing a lemon wedge around the outside of the glass.
Peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler, trim it if necessary and arrange around the inside of the glass, at the top so that the aromatic oils are still present.
Shake all ingredients in shaker tins with ice (but not too long) and pour into glasses.
In a chilled glass, double strain the cocktail, garnish it and enjoy!
Spirits to consider
Here, the brandy is the hero, so make sure you pick one with enough body to hold up.
The Tasmanian brandy we used is Sullivan’s Cove XO, but Hennessy, Remy Martin, etc. would work as well. With VS or VSOP, you will just have a lighter cocktail without the complexity, but it will still taste good.
We use Pierre Ferrand curacao.
The cognac base is layered with spices and orange peel, which really complements the intense brandy we are using.
If you are adding maraschino as well, remain loyal to the dryer style of curacao.
Maraschino is optional, on that note.
The addition of some became popular after the creation of Crusta, and we like the way it complements the red fruit notes in this brandy, but you can also omit it.