The Crusta

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A classic cocktail, the Crusta features a unique garnish, and is the ancestor to quite a few various drinks.


Belonging to a family of drinks which are characterized by their unique garnish, the Crusta is the ancestor to the Sidecar, and the technique of sugar rimming a glass is used in other drinks such as the Margarita (salt rim) (Wondrich 221).  Gathering its name from the “crust” of sugar on the glass, the drink is further characterized by a lemon skin which has been pared from half a lemon, which wraps around, quite often if made properly, the inside of the lip of the glass, but usually the glass itself, as is the case with my pictured Crusta.  As Embury notes, “the distinguishing feature of the Crusta is that the entire inside of the glass is lined with lemon or orange peel.  The drink may be served in either a wineglass or an Old-Fashioned glass, although it is much harder to make the peel fit in the Old-Fashioned glass” (Embury 244). 

Looking at the phylogenetics of the Cocktail as a concept, we see that it is a drink which includes sugar, bitters, water, and spirits.  An Old Fashioned cocktail best exemplifies this.  However, if we go into the Crusta, we see almost all the same ingredients, but with slight modifications: the addition of curacao (or later, maraschino liqueur) and lemon juice (Wondrich 220-221).  This makes it rather interesting, since it is very identical to a Cocktail proper, but it isn’t one.  Furthermore, it is one of the first drinks to introduce lemon juice into a “Cocktail,” if not the first (Ibid 221).  Anything earlier, which included juices, were a Punch and not a Cocktail.  The blending of Punch with Cocktail happened in 1850 by Joseph Santini who took over a bar in New Orleans, in the French Quarter (Ibid).  Remaining localized, it was Jerry Thomas who disseminated the idea of the Crusta when he discovered it sometime in the 1850s; not until the 1890s did the drink explode, when lime, lemon or orange juice was added to Cocktails, creating the Sidecar, Orange Blossom, and various other drinks (Ibid).

While this drink can be made with any spirit, it is most often seen made with brandy (Ibid).  It also calls specifically for Boker’s bitters, which have recently become available once more.  In Jerry Thomas book, he lists the Gin Crusta, Whiskey Crusta, and the Brandy Crusta, all of which are identical; but as Embury notes, you can create even more version, such as an Applejack Crusta (Thomas 26-27; Embury 245).  Really, the point is to take a spirit, and make a somewhat dry cocktail with the addition of a slight citrus flavor.

Depending on the recipe, the drink calls for either curacao or maraschino, but sometimes it will call for both.  I recommend using curacao; maraschino makes for a drier drink, with a more dominating flavor, and goes quite a bit further than a little bit of Cointreau or other triple secs will go flavor wise in the same quantity.  Judging from recipes, it seems as time progressed, the more popular version calls for maraschino (Jackson 158; Embury 245).  Although, you are more than welcome to mix both of the two liqueurs in order to create a flavor which appeals to you, but from a historical perspective, depending on the style, either curacao if in the original format, or maraschino prohibition and after.

The drink also calls for a “little” lemon juice.  This is very subjective, so many times anything from a dash to upwards of 1/3rd an ounce will suffice.  I am using the amount Wondrich calls for, which is extremely small, at only one teaspoon; the drink does have a nice aroma, thanks to the peel which lines the inside of the glass, so the smell, which contributes to taste, makes it unnecessary to add more.

In order to create a wonderful sugar rim on the glass, I did what Kazuo Uyeda suggest: taking half a lemon (after which you can pare the skin off), rub the glass lip at a 45 degree angle in one full turn against the lemon half, and then not flipping the glass over, placing in a small saucer of sugar or salt, after which you shake off any excess (Uyeda 53-54).  This keeps the sugar uniform and on the outside of the glass only, rather than allowing it to flow into the inside of the glass, which is undesirable.

The Crusta:

2 ounces spirit
1/2 teaspoon curacao, or maraschino
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 dashes bitters

In a small wine glass, or a coupe cocktail glass, rub a slice of lemon around the rim, and dip it in white sugar to create a nice even rim on the glass.  Pare half a lemon skin, and put it around the glass, preferably positioning it so it adheres to the lip of the glass (this can be somewhat daunting and difficult, especially if the glass is too big).  Shake the ingredients on ice, and strain it into a lemon rimmed glass.  

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Craddock, Henry.  1999.  The Savoy Cocktail Book.  Originally published 1930.  London: Pavilion Books.

Embury, David A.  2009.  The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.  Originally published 1948.  New York: Mud Puddle Books, Inc.

Jackson, Michael.  1995.  Michael Jackson’s Bar and Cocktail Companion: The Connoisseur’s Handbook.  Originally published 1979.  Philadelphia: Running Press.

Thomas, Jerry.  1887.  Bartender’s Guide.  Reprint of original.  New York: Dick and Fitzgerald.

Uyeda, Kazuo.  2010.  Cocktail Techniques.  Originally published in 2000.  New York: Mud Puddle Books, Inc. 


Wondrich, David. 2007. Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. New York: Penguin Group.