It has been quite a long while since we featured a truly classic cocktail. Not a new creation of ours, not a modern cocktail, not our own take on something older. Something genuinely old, and genuinely good, to have stood the test of time. So here’s the Brandy Crusta, just that sort of drink. – Andrew
Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper
The Brandy Crusta
2 oz Brandy
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 Dash Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Aromatic Bitters
Lemon Peel and Sugar to Garnish
Cut a lemon in half lengthwise and remove the ends. Carefully remove the peel from one half (more on this later). Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon, then roll the glass in sugar to frost the rim. Curl the lemon peel in the glass and set aside.
Combine the brandy, orange liqueur, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters, then shake well with ice. Strain into the glass and enjoy!
The Brandy Crusta is rich and oaky from the brandy, a bit sweet from the orange liqueur, and richly citrusy. Not just from the fresh lemon juice, which adds a tart accent, but also from all that lemon peel in the glass, which lends the drink a delicious scent of lemon oil. Plus just a bit of bitterness from the pith. It’s complex but smooth.
So, about that peel. There are two ways you can go about this. The easier, saner way is to take a sharp vegetable peeler to a whole lemon. Turning the lemon as you go, cut a long, spiraling piece of peel that you can curl in the glass. The much harder, and much less sane, method is this: take a sharp knife to one half of the lemon and carefully, painstakingly remove the peel from the lemon, taking care not to cut yourself as your hands get slippery from lemon juice. Then, once you have a single piece of peel, scrape off as much of the bitter white pith as you can. The advantage of this latter method is the beautiful, solid peel that you can curl around your glass. The disadvantage is that it is a pain in the ass. So go with the first, easier method unless you’re really trying to impress someone. This is not, in other words, a drink to serve to a bunch of party guests.
Like I said, this is an old drink. It dates back to the 1850s, invented by Joseph Santini at his City Exchange bar in New Orleans. (He also made Whiskey and Gin Crustas, but the Brandy Crusta is the version that has survived through time.) This must have been a productive time for New Orleans bartenders, because this was around the same time they invented such other amazing cocktails as the Sazerac. I’m guessing a good time was had by all.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper