Words by Simon Difford
Crustas are drinks containing spirit, lemon juice, sugar and aromatic bitters. They are always served in stemmed glasses with a sugar crust rim and an extra-large lemon (or sometimes orange) zest.
Crustas always contain a spirit, lemon juice and sugar – sometimes in the form of a liqueur or liqueurs. They are so named due to their sugar rim, which should be applied hours before the drink is made so that it is dried hard, or indeed 'crusted', when the drink is served. Crustas are also distinguished by being garnished with a band of orange or lemon zest around the inside rim of the glass.
As David A. Embury writes in his 1948 The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, "The distinguishing feature of the Crusta is that the entire inside of the glass is lined with lemon or orange peel. The drink may be served in either a wineglass or an Old-Fashioned glass, although it is much harder to make the peel fit in the Old-Fashioned glass."
Embury goes on to say, "While the 'Brandy Crusta' is the most common form of this drink, it is, after all, merely a Sour-type drink served in fancy style. Substitution of a different liquor as a base will give a Gin Crusta, a Rum Crusta, an Applejack Crusta, A Whisky Crusta, and so above the on."
How to garnish a Crusta
There are two ways of garnishing a Crusta:
1. The cheats way - Rim the glass with sugar and then to cut a thick lemon zest long enough that it will spring open to grip the inside of the glass and slightly protrude above the rim of the glass. Instruct the drinker to push the peel into the drink prior to drinking.
2. The proper way - Find a lemon which fits into a small wineglass tightly enough to act as a watertight extension to the glass. Cut off both ends of the fruit and carefully remove the pulp to leave a barrel-shaped shell of skin. Place this in the top of the glass so around half of the fruit's width is above the rim of the glass. Wet the edge of the glass and exposed fruit shell with sugar syrup (2:1) particularly generously where the fruit meets the glass rim. Dip in caster sugar to frost the edge of both lemon peel and glass. Leave for a couple of hours to form a hard crust which helps fix lemon in the glass and form a watertight seal. The drinker then drinks from the rim of the fruit rather than the glass.
The invention of the Crusta is credited to a Joseph Santini at the Jewel of the South or at the City Exchange in New Orleans sometime during the 1840s or 1850s. It first appeared in print as 'The Brandy Crusta' in Jerry Thomas' 1862 Bartender's Guide.