Wednesday, March 9, 2011

pisco crusta

2 oz Capel Pisco
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
2 dash Abbott's Bitters (sub Angostura)

Shake with ice and strain into a small wineglass with a sugar-coated rim. Garnish with a wide lemon peel looped around the inside of the glass' opening.

Last Friday, Andrea and I went to Rendezvous for dinner. There, I spoke to bartender Scott Holliday about an online class I took on Cognac. Scott was curious as to what the course covered, and he got excited when I mentioned that the Brandy Crusta was one of the drinks they discussed.

The Crusta was created by Joseph Santini in New Orleans around 1852. At his Jewel of the South bar in the French Quarter, he was believed to have created the drink that eventually transformed into the Sidecar. A decade or two later, Jerry Thomas described the Crusta as being a Fancy Brandy Cocktail with the addition of a sugar-crusted rim and lemon juice. While the sugar-coated rim helped to give the drink its name, the addition of citrus to cocktails was a big leap forward. To put the Crusta in perspective, Jerry Thomas also provided the recipes for the classic Brandy and the Fancy Brandy Cocktails. The Brandy Cocktail was spirit, bitters, curaçao, and gum syrup on crushed ice, and the only upgrade from that to the Fancy Brandy Cocktail was straining out the ice and adding the lemon peel that later became better associated with the Crusta. It is also worth mentioning that subsequent versions of the Crusta contain Maraschino liqueur in place of or in addition to the orange liqueur.

Originally, according to David Wondrich in Imbibe!, the lemon juice was meant more as an accent than as the basis of a Sour type drink. Today, the lemon juice portion can be quite considerable, and it is the addition of the bitters, the wide lemon peel, and sometimes the glassware choice that distinguishes the Crusta from the Sidecar.
The spirit that Scott has been excited about experimenting with recently is Pisco, so he decided to make me a Pisco Crusta. The drink was very much like a Sidecar, but here, the citrus peel donated a grand lemon oil aroma. Moreover, the pisco added a delightful grape eau de vie note to the drink and the Abbott's Bitters provided a bit of complexity to the mix including clove and pimenta racemosa flavors. Indeed, the balance was a bit tarter than most Sidecars usually are, but still within the acceptable if not preferable range; the addition of sweetness from the sugared rim did adjust the balance as needed.


Adam said...

I'm intrigued with the bitters in this drink and will have to give it a shot. I made a Sidecar variation, called the Painted Forest, which muted the non-brandy flavors a bit using lime and agave (instead of sugar).

frederic said...

Interesting since I don't often see brandy and lime paired up. Brandy and whiskey seem to be lemon-friendly just like rum, tequila, and pisco are lime-friendly (gin and vodka seem to go either way). Then again, I just realize that pisco drink here in the Crusta used lemon (and plenty of Pisco Sour recipes exist that are lemon, but are just mistranslations in my book).