Crustas Cocktail with jigger and mixing glass

What are Crustas Cocktails?

By Timo Torner / Last updated on July 21, 2022 

First published on August 3, 2021 

Crustas is a category of cocktails. Drinks from this group follow a particular ingredient pattern and always come in a specific type of glass with a rim of crusted sugar.

Crustas is the name of a small group of classic cocktails always served in stemmed glasses. 

These cocktails are consisting of a spirit base mixed with sugar, fresh lemon juice, and cocktail bitters. Their appearance is pretty iconic as they get served with extra-large lemon zest and a sugar rim.

Even though only a few actually have tried a Crusta, it's an influential part of cocktail history. If you want, you can see it as a forerunner of today's Margarita cocktail.

What are Crustas Cocktails?

The Crustas owe their name to the garnished rim, which comes crusted with sugar. 

And to get a proper crust, you must apply the sugar a couple of hours before serving the drink. That way, the sugar rim will dry through and stick better to the glass.

Crusta Cocktail

As I mentioned, a Crusta cocktail is always a spirit mixed with freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar, and cocktail bitters. The sweetening sugar part can either be syrup or a liqueur. 

The history of this cocktail category is also quite interesting, and also, the classy drink was part of many cocktail recipe books. So let's take a closer look at the Crusta cocktails past.

History of the Crustas

Crustas, like a respectable number of other classic cocktails, originate from New Orleans. What makes this extra special in that respect is, that it is probably the very first one of many that became famous. 

First mixed in the 1850s by bartender Joseph Santini, it's even older than the Ramos Gin Fizzthe Hurricane, and the Sazerac.

The Crustas are also among the first cocktails having quite a complex, signature way of presentation and garnish. Due to that, this type of drink outshone many others when it first appeared in Jerry Thomas's "How to Mix Drinks" in 1862.

Crustas Cocktails

As with many cocktail recipes in the early days, you could easily swap the base spirit. 

No matter if Whiskey, Gin, or Brandy - all of them were alright to use. But one of them quickly became somewhat of the leader of the Crustas - the Brandy Crusta.

On a side note: a good Brandy Crusta strongly relies on a quality Cognac. That and the perfect balance between Brandy and citrus will lift your Brandy Crusta from good to great.

The garnish of the Crustas Cocktails

To get the garnish right, you need two elements: the rim crusted with sugar and the lemon ring inside the glass. 

The sugar crust

The Crustas cocktails stood out visually since Joseph Santini brought them to life. Before, there was no cocktail with a garnished rim at all. 

So this clearly was the role model for one of the most iconic yet classic ways to decorate cocktail glasses. And the sugar crust is only the first part of the drink's garnish.

At least 3 -4 hours before mixing the drink, you need to moisten the rim of the glass with a lemon wedge and dip it in caster sugar. Then let it dry thoroughly for the perfect, solid crust.

The lemon

The second part of this iconic garnish is the lemon peel - or actually the lemon ring, to be precise. 

However, this traditional and proper way to garnish a Crusta cocktail is seldom executed correctly. 

In most cases, a large and thick lemon peel is put inside the glass so that it is just peeking out. -When you drink a Crusta garnished like that, you push the peel inside the glass before taking a sip. And that is totally different from the original way of garnishing.

Crustas Cocktails garnish

If you do it the right way, you take a lemon that is just small enough to fit into a slim wine or sparkling wine glass. It has to sit really tight. Like that, it can work as an extension of the actual glass.

Then you cut off the lower and upper parts of the lemon and remove the fruit pulp. What you're left with is a solid lemon ring that you can insert into your glass. 

Place the lemon inside the glass

The lower part will be inside, the upper part above the rim. When you drink now, your lips will only touch the lemon, not the glass.

The most important thing is that the lemon fits skin tight. When you drink your Crusta, no liquid should be dripping out. If you get this right: 

Congrats, you mastered one of the oldest and most iconic cocktail garnishes out there.

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