First mixed by Italian bartender Joseph Santini in the 1850s, the Brandy Crusta is even older than the Sazerac, Vieux Carré, and Ramos Gin Fizz. It's not clear if he invented the drink at City Exchange in the French Quarter of New Orleans or at his Saloon called Jewel of the South, located on Gravier Street.
The recipe even made it into one of the most famous cocktail books of all time: Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide from 1862.
The Crusta cocktail is also considered a forerunner of classic recipes like the Sidecar and Margarita; Mainly due to its iconic way of garnishing. After the drink was absent from menus of many cocktail bars, David Wondrich brought it back when he included it in his famous cocktail book "Imbibe!" back in 2007.
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 2 oz Cognac
- 0.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 0.25 oz Curaçao
- 0.25 oz Maraschino liqueur
- 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- caster sugar - for garnish
- lemon peel - for garnish
- Prepare a small wine or sparkling wine glass by rimming it with sugar.caster sugar
- Make the lemon peel and put it halfway into your glass.lemon peel
- Add all of the ingredients into your cocktails shaker with ice and shake until well chilled.2 oz Cognac, 0.5 oz Fresh lemon juice, 0.25 oz Curaçao, 0.25 oz Maraschino liqueur, 0.5 oz Simple Syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Carefully strain the cocktail into your prepared glass.
You can make Crusta cocktails with different kinds of spirits, yet the Brandy Crusta is the most popular version of this category. Here's what you need to make this tasty brandy-based cocktail:
- Brandy: Technically, you can use any brandy type. However, as with most brandy cocktails, Cognac is the way to go. The full-bodied French quality brandy works exceptionally well in mixed drinks and makes for a superb base.
- Dry orange curaçao: The dry orange liqueur adds bright orange citrus flavors to the drink and pairs well with fresh lemon.
- Lemon juice: Half an ounce of fresh lemon juice is enough to add the desired tartness to the drink.
- Maraschino liqueur: The addition of the sweet Italian cherry liqueur is a trend that started later in the history of the drink. However, it blends nicely with the other ingredients and, in my opinion, elevates the overall taste of the Brandy Crusta.
- Simple syrup: Use a standard simple sugar syrup, or rich syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water) for a thicker mouthfeel.
- Angostura aromatic bitters: Two dashes of Angostura bitters bring complexity and depth of flavor to the Brandy Crusta.
Steps to make a Brandy Crusta cocktail
Making a Brandy Crusta is easy, let's see how you can make the classic recipe:
- Start with a vegetable peeler and a lemon. Peel a twist long enough to be arranged around the whole cocktail glass from the inside. For the glassware, I recommend using a coupe glass due to the volume of the Brandy Crusta.
- Use a lemon wedge to wet the outside rim of the glass, then dip the glass in superfine sugar to create the iconic sugar rim.
- As the drink recipe requires lemon juice, use your shaker (not your mixing glass) and add ice cubes following all ingredients.
- Shake the cocktail for 8-12 seconds, then strain into your prepared coupe glass.
Variations & Recommendations
- Choosing the brandy base: We highly recommend a mid-shelf Cognac as the base of this cocktail. Remy Martin or Hennessy both work fine. Alternatively, you can use any other brandy.
- VS, VSOP, or XO: Choose an XO brandy for a heavier, more complex drink. If you prefer a lighter cocktail, try mixing it with a VS or VSOP brandy/Cognac.
- Curaçao recommendations: We recommend a dry Curaçao liqueur like Ferrand Dry or Senior Orange Curaçao.
- Grand Marnier: Instead of Curaçao, you can use the cognac-based Grand Marnier liqueur. That will make the drink more complex and pair well with an XO cognac base.
- Sweetener: Standard simple syrup works just fine, but if you want a thicker mouthfeel, use a rich or gomme syrup instead.
Pro Tips for Making the Crusta Garnish
To get this garnish right, you need quite some steps and time. So I want to guide you through the process of making the two main pieces.
If you want to have a decent crust. To achieve that, you need to start a few hours before the drink is mixed. So you want to think ahead and prep all your glasses in advance.
For this, take a slice of orange or lemon and rub it around the rim of your glass. Then dip the glass in white sugar to make it stick to your glass. Then put the glasses aside and let them dry to get a beautiful sugar crust.
The citrus peel garnish
Most of the time, to make a barkeeper's life a bit easier, a long citrus peel (orange or lemon) is carefully curled around the inside of the glass rim. Before drinking this kind of Crusta, you push the peel down in the glass. Otherwise, it won't be possible to sip from it.
However, the correct way to do it is to pick a lemon with a size just small enough to fit the inner diameter of your glass. Cut the lower and upper end of the lemon off so that it leaves you with a lemon barrel of 3-4 cm in height. Remove the pulp and put this lemon wheel inside your glass.
It should act as a watertight extension of your glass. Ideally, you want to use a small wine or sparkling wine glass for this. Get your garnish ready, grab your favorite Cocktail Shaker, and make one of the most influential brandy cocktails.