The Forgotten Cocktail: Brandy Crusta and Martinique Crusta

Brandy Crusta

Whether it’s a Sazerac, Ramos gin fizz, or a daiquiri, a cocktail is a combination of alcoholic spirits and flavorings—and in the mid-19th century that usually meant water, sugar, and bitters. That is until Italian immigrant Joseph Santini added citrus to the mix to create the Brandy Crusta at New Orleans’ Exchange Hotel.

Santini also made use of the cutting-edge technology of the time, manufactured ice, which had only recently become widely available enough to be used at a hotel like the Exchange (which later became the illustrious St. Louis Hotel).

The Brandy Crusta, named for the crust of sugar on the rim, was one of the first cocktails to include ice, simple syrup, and, surprisingly enough, citrus juice (which was previously relegated to the punch bowl). All of those elements came together to illustrate the height of the bartending craft.

In present-day New Orleans, bartenders Neal Bodenheimer and Kirk Estopinal run a few of the most admired cocktail dens in the city, where they pay homage to the classics and mix up fresh ideas all the time. Their empire of potent potables started with Cure on Freret Street in 2009 and has since expanded to  Cane & Table (a Caribbean-inspired bar and restaurant).

Here, they demonstrate the classic, bracing-yet-balanced Brandy Crusta, and a Caribbean variation by the venerable cocktail writer Charles H. Baker Jr., combining sweet, grassy rhum agricole and lime juice. While the garnish of coiled whole citrus peel looks complicated, it is actually quite easy to achieve with a y-shaped vegetable peeler. And make sure to rim the glass with a generous coating of sugar, it not only looks gorgeous but also balances out the tart tipple.

Brandy Crusta
Yields: 1 serving
 
Ingredients
  • Sugar (for rimming glass)
  • 1 orange, rinsed and dried
  • 2 ounces brandy
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce dry orange liqueur*
  • ¼ ounce Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
  • Dash maraschino liqueur
Instructions
  1. In a small shallow bowl, place sugar. Fill another shallow bowl with water. Dip the rim of a coupe glass in water, then into sugar.
  2. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel orange in one piece, starting at the top. Reserve orange flesh for another use.
  3. In a cocktail shaker, combine brandy, lemon juice, orange liqueur, Simple Syrup, and maraschino liqueur. Add ice, and cover; shake until cold, and strain into prepared glass. Coil the orange peel, and carefully add to glass.
Notes
*We used Curaçao.

Simple Syrup
Yields: 1 cup
 
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let cool completely.

 

Martinique Crusta

 

Martinique Crusta
Yields: 1 serving
 
Ingredients
  • Sugar (for rimming glass)
  • 1 lime, rinsed and dried
  • 2 ounces rhum agricole blanc*
  • ¼ ounce Martinique cane syrup*
  • Dash maraschino liqueur
Instructions
  1. In a small shallow bowl, place sugar. Fill another shallow bowl with water. Dip the rim of a coupe glass in water, then into sugar.
  2. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel lime in one piece, starting at the top. Set aside peel, and juice lime.
  3. In a cocktail shaker, combine rhum, ¾ ounce lime juice, cane syrup, and maraschino liqueur. Add ice, and cover; shake until cold, and strain into prepared glass. Coil the lime peel, and carefully add to glass.
Notes
*We used Neisson Rhum Agricole Blanc 50%. A Louisiana cane syrup, such as Poirier’s, may be substituted. Combine ¼ cup syrup with 2 tablespoons water; cover and refrigerate until using.

For more fascinating New Orleans cocktail history, lore, and more, check out Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans by Elizabeth M. Williams and Chris McMillian (Louisiana State University Press, 2016).

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