Bourbon Crusta Cocktail

By Robert Hess

The "Crusta" is a style of drink which harkens from the early 1800's. While it never gained the same level of notoriety as the "Cocktail", today's cocktail revival is allowing it to once again make it's way onto drink lists again.

Recipe

Ingredients

2 oz bourbon

1/2 oz Cointreau

1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

dash Angostura Bitters

Instructions

Shake with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass (optional sugared rim).

Comments
Ben Alpers 31 Aug 2009
6:29 am

Thanks for another great episode, Robert!  But this one left me with a definitional question.  A cocktail is (or at least was originally) defined as a drink that contained a mixture of distilled spirits, sugar, and bitters.  What minimally defined a crusta back in Jerry Thomas’s day?

Federico Cuco 31 Aug 2009
6:33 am

Excelente chapter.
I like this old glass (I think you have the best glasses).
This cocktail is amaizing.

DJ HawaiianShirt 31 Aug 2009
6:43 am

1/2 oz of Luxardo?  You’re a daring man, Robert.  I find that anything more than a 1/4 oz of Luxardo maraschino dominates any drink.

Also, my new blog has been up a while.  Check it out, I’ve been aging my own whiskey in a mini barrel!

http://spiritedremix.blogspot.com

Great post!

Lawrence Spies 31 Aug 2009
6:51 am

Sounds Great Robert! also sounds like an old fashioned made with out muddling the orange and cherry!  (if you combine the original and ““modern” versions of the old fashioned minus the sugar) So using a different base spirit would make it, say, a Rum Crusta correct?

Lawrence Spies 31 Aug 2009
6:55 am

Like to try this with cherry bitters too!

mdoudoroff 31 Aug 2009
7:04 am

What happened to the

Argyle Wolf-Knapp 31 Aug 2009
7:30 am

So why “crusta”? Where did the name come from?

Greg B. Carlstrom 31 Aug 2009
7:33 am

Great episode, Robert! Is there any reason that you opted to not sugar rim the glass and leave a large zest of lemon wrapped inside the rim?  Perhaps this was just an evolutionary thing that came about after the creation of the drink?

Robert Hess 31 Aug 2009
8:11 am

Great little discussion going on about the Crusta… let’s first cover the most imporant point being raised as in what exactly “makes” this a crusta, to get to that, here is one of the earliest descriptions of the crusta,from Jerry Thomas’s 1862 Bartenders Guide:

“Crusta is made the same as a fancy cocktail, with a little lemon juice and a small lump of ice added. First, mix the ingredients in a small tumbler, then take a fancy red wine glass [Robert: illustration shows what is known as a “Hock” wine glass], rub a sliced lemon around the rim of the same, and dip it in pulverized white sugar, so that the sugar will adhere to the edge of the glass. Pare half a lemon the same as you would an apple (all in one piece) so that the paring will fit in the wine-glass, as shown in the cut, and strain the crusta from the tumbler into it. Then smile.”

...thus the crusta is a cocktail, with the addition of a little lemon juice, and a sugared rim, and a broad piece of lemon peel wrapped inside as a garnish.

So the next obvious question is… what the heck happened to the sugared rim? (see next post :->)

Robert Hess 31 Aug 2009
8:16 am

...as for the sugared rim…

It appears that a part of this episode got left on the cutting room floor, and that bit was where I talked precisely about this exact aspect of the drink, and how makes this drink similar to what we today know as the “Sidecar” with it’s typical sugared rim. Personally, I don’t like the sugared rim on a sidecar because it quickly leaves a sticky film on the outside of the glass, which results in sticky fingers. And so I was illustrating here how the recipe for the Crusta is is the same with or without the sugared rim, and I’ll leave it up to each of you to decide how you might want to do this.

For the lemon peel trick to work properly, I think it really needs a glass of the correct shape. I’ve been looking for a hock-style wine glass, and plan on showing the “Brandy Crusta” the full Jerry Thomas way, once I do.

-Robert

blair frodelius 1 Sep 2009
3:33 am

That pesky sugared rim!

Actually having made a few crustas, I have to say that the effort of cutting a large swath of lemon peel so that it fits inside the rim of a glass is a bit difficult.  It looks pretty, but it becomes an unwieldy garnish. 

The original Sidecars did not include the sugared rim, and IMHO still do not need them.  It is plenty sweet enough.  What I tend to do is what I do with my margaritas.  I season half of the rim, letting the customer decide if they want that extra burst of flavor or not.

Regardless, the Bourbon Crusta has long been on my “go to” list of cocktails.  Absolutely, a killer drink!  I always SMILE when I have one!

Cheers!

Blair
http://goodspiritsnews.spaces.live.com

mdoudoroff 1 Sep 2009
3:59 am

Ok, but it seems to me a Bourbon Crusta without a sugared rim is less a Crusta than a Cocktail of the sour persuasion (but not to be confused

Robert Hess 1 Sep 2009
8:43 am

I agree that the sugared rim AND the rather robustly appointed lemon peel garnish is part of the fun and glamor of the Crusta, but at the same time I think it is worthwhile to not let that get in the way of getting aquainted with the drink. I promise to do a full-bore brandy crusta in a future episode.

Bill 13 Mar 2010
1:37 pm

I tried this one last night and it’s fantastic. Bourbon and Luxardo complement each other amazingly well, throughout the swallow. I will definitely be making this again, and pushing it on guests.

Nucleozoid 27 Apr 2012
7:15 pm

I must say that is an incredibly good drink. Very well balanced - absolutely synergized deliciousness.

AaronWalls 18 Oct 2012
5:12 pm

A quick question, Robert:

Why do some of these recipes vary from here to your drinkboy website? In this recipe, for example, the website calls for orange bitters and an orange peel garnish.

Robert Hess 19 Oct 2012
10:19 am

Aaron… part of it is because I gradually fine-tune some of my recipes over time, and forget to go back and edit/update all of my references! Another part of it (unintentional) is that I think it is important to remind people that rarely are recipes an “exact” science. Or as Gaz (Gary) Regan is oft to say “nothing is written in stone”. I think that there is always a little leeway room in regards to what is, and isn’t, allowable variations in a particular cocktail. Part of the goal is to kinow “why” you are adjusting a recipe, and to do so in an effort to improve upon it without “changing” it.

The first doccurance of “crusta” as a recipe is for the “Brandy Crusta” (1862, Jerry Thomas) in which it refers to the drink being made “the same as a fancy cocktail, with a little lemon juice and a small lump of ice added.”  Then describes to rim the glass with sugar, and garnish with a very long lemon peel. It then describes the “Whiskey Crusta” and “Gin Crusta” as being made the same way, but substituting the appropriate spirit instead. Such a simplification of a recipe provides plenty of room for interpretation. For Bourbon, I often like the flavor of orange as an accompanyment instead o flemon, so I might use an orange twist garnish instead of lemon. For bitters, I do think Angostura is more appropriate, not sure why I am listeing orange bitters there.

But in generaly, I would recommend trying this drink using different bitters, and diferent garnishes, just to see for yourself how each of them might change the character of the drink and allow you to fine tune it a little bit.

-Robert

Shawn Long 16 Aug 2013
11:48 am

I’ve noticed that some recipes like the one on Savoy Cocktail Book called for maraschino liqueur, whilst others like Jerry Thomas’ version didn’t. I suppose it’s an optional thing?

Robert Hess 16 Aug 2013
1:18 pm

You will often see things like Maraschino liqueur and orange curacao used optionally in different recipes of the day. During the Jerry Thomas days, customers would order simply a “gin cocktail” and the bartender would make them a gin based drink using the cocktail “template”, which was never seen as a strict or tightly defined recipe, but one of a more general nature (spirits of any kind, sugar, water, bitters). The “Crusta” was a slightly different template, but it too was more general in nature. I suppose you could equate it to something like a “Hamburger”. We all know exactly what a hamburger is supposed to be… within a somewhat loose definition.

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