In celebrating Mardi Gras this week, it only seems fitting that today’s Vintage Cocktail is one of the oldest cocktails originating from New Orleans – The Brandy Crusta.
Over 150 years ago, Joseph Santina invented a new version of a cocktail, the crusta drink form. Basically it involved adding a piece of fruit peel, a liqueur, and then rimming the glass with sugar. This form of cocktail was featured in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide, in which Thomas referred to the crusta class of drinks as an improvement on the cocktail. That may have been an overstatement.
But back to the Brandy Crusta itself. In 1852, Joseph Santina owned and operated the New Orlean’s City Exchange Bar on Gravier Street. During this time he created The Brandy Crusta, a precursor to the first Sidecar, and a great-grandfather to our modern day Margarita. It is truly a New Orleans’ classic.
Once of the most famous cocktails to come out of Prohibition is undoubtedly the Sidecar. Remember Harry McElhone from the notes on The Boulivardier? Well, McElhone actually published the first recipe for a Sidecar in 1922 and credits a bartender working at an American Bar in London. The difference between a Sidecar and the Brandy Crusta is simply replacing the orange curacao with Cointreau, and removing the use of bitters and lemon peel.
1/2 t fresh lemon juice
Bar or table sugar
2 oz. cognac
1 t orange curacao
1 dash Angostura bitters
Cut the lemon in half and pare the full peel off of half. Squeeze the juice from the lemon. Moisten the rim of the cocktail glass with lemon juice, then dip in sugar. Insert a lemon peel into the glass. Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker or crushed ice. Shake, strain into the prepared glass. Add on small lump of ice and serve.
Not only is this a beautifully appealing drink in presentation, it is a perfect flavor combination; a formula that has now been used for over 100 years. The citrus (in this case orange) flavor complements the base spirit (cognac). The lemon and sugar provide the same contrast on a different level. There is not much complexity to this cocktail, but it is not needed. Serve this one up, sit back, and let the good times roll!