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This Is Your Ultimate Guide To The Art Of Crafting A Crusta Cocktail

making crusta cocktails

We all enjoy the little garnishes that go into adorning our cocktails, sometimes adding a dramatic flourish to a drink, at others introducing a bit of complexity into the mix. But little do we know that the idea of complex presentations and garnishes can be traced back to an obscure drink called the crusta, which was quite the trailblazer during the 19th century. Said to have been invented by an Italian bartender named Joseph Santini in New Orleans, the drink is a slight twist on a fancy cocktail and involves using a lemon peel garnish. Varied spirits have been used interchangeably to craft the crusta including gin, brandy and whisky but the brandy crusta became a popular variation through time.

Now, crusta is slowly being revived as bartenders try to experiment with different types of flavours and garnishes. Two aspects which make the crusta stand out are the lemon peel garnish and a sugar crusted rim, making it the first cocktail to have this sweet border which has credited this name upon the drink. The cocktail is fancy and seductive and just a tad luxe which makes it all the more appealing when you are hosting a fancy party at home. Its garnishes also require meticulous attention making the preparation of this cocktail quite a skilled affair.

So, the next time you put on your posh clothes and host an elegant gathering at home, you can serve a crusta cocktail to suit your overall theme. Here’s a comprehensive guide to getting the cocktail just right:

adjusting spirits and citruses in cocktails

Spirit To Citrus Ratio

According to Punch magazine, what makes this cocktail stand out is its spirit to citrus ratio that introduces a layered finish to the drink. Its unorthodox recipe distinguishes the crusta from other cocktails as it involves adding a splash of lime juice along with bitters to the spirit which is then poured over ice before shaking. This means that while the drink remains spirit forward because of the addition of quality brandy or cognac, it also calls for a heavy amount of citruses which have long kept bartenders confused about where to place the crusta in the cocktail family. 

crusta cocktail lining

Sugared Rim

This stunningly sweet garnish is what makes crusta cocktails class apart from margaritas or bloody marys. Spend some time on getting the garnish right by first moistening the rim of a coupe or wine glass and with a lemon or orange wedge. Next, dip the moistened rim into castor sugar, coating it thoroughly with these saccharine notes. The sugared rim works well to counteract some of the bitterness inherent to the drink, and sipping on the cocktail in a stemmed glass enhances the classy feel of the sugar-crusted garnish.

lemon peel as cocktail garnish

Lemon Peel Lining

Here is where you will be tested as a mixologist and bartender. Making a crusta cocktail means lining the entire inner rim of the glass with a long strip of lemon peel whose edge must slightly peek out over the top of the glass. This involves first, peeling a lemon without letting it break so you have a long strip at hand that can be inserted into the glass. The lemon peel has to appear rather like a collar so it must stick to the sugar rim at the top with its ends jutting out. Nowadays bartenders use maraschino cherries as garnish too and experiment with different citruses to slightly alter flavours.

different spirits for crusta cocktails

Spirit Variations

While brandy or cognac are the preferred spirits for crafting a crusta cocktail, you can bring back a little something of 19th century New Orleans into your drink and work with different liquors like gin and whisky to craft this classic drink. You can introduce intense, spicier flavours or alternatively some floral elements with these spirit variations.

cocktail bitters

Add Bitters

While citruses figure prominently in the making of crusta cocktails, you can also add bitters to the drink to enhance its complexity. With the castor sugar garnish and the addition of aromatic bitters, the drink will acquire a nuance which becomes a rather distinguishing element of this obscure cocktail.

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