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The Brandy Crusta is a classic cocktail boasting a sweet tart flavor with fresh lemon and sophisticated brandy! Garnished with a dazzling sugar crust, it’s easy to make and elegant to sip.

Brandy Crusta
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Here’s a classic cocktail that blew us away with its sweet tart flavor and sophisticated vibe: the Brandy Crusta! This timeless drink dates back to the 1850’s, but it’s every bit fun to drink today, with a big beautiful sugar crust and oversized lemon peel garnish. The flavor is perfectly balanced, with orange and cherry liqueur that balance fresh lemon and sultry brandy. As two cocktail experts and certified mixologists, the Brandy Crusta is up there as one of our top impressive drinks to make at home!

What’s a Brandy Crusta?

The Brandy Crusta is one of the oldest classic cocktails there is, and a direct relative of the most popular brandy cocktail, the Sidecar. The drink was invented in the 1850’s by an Italian bartender in New Orleans named Joseph Santini. The word “Crusta” refers to the distinctive sugar rim, an element Santini added not just for sweetness but for an elevated visual and textural element.

The Brandy Crusta was first published in the most important work on cocktails at the time, Jerry Thomas’ 1862 Bartender’s Guide, which contained such classics as the Whiskey Sour and Tom Collins. The drink fell out of popularity until it was revived with the interest in classic cocktails in recent decades, and it’s back in favor as a popular New Orleans cocktail. The ingredients in a Brandy Crusta are:

  • Brandy or Cognac
  • Cointreau or triple sec
  • Maraschino liqueur
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Simple syrup
  • Angostura bitters
Hennessy Cognac

Types of brandy

Brandy is a liquor made from distilling wine or other fruit, like apples or apricot. You can use any type of brandy you have on hand for a Brandy Crusta. You can use anything from Cognac like Hennessy to an American brandy like Korbel. Here are a few types of brandy to consider:

  • American brandy, any type of brandy made in the US: a popular brand is Korbel brandy.
  • Cognac is a French brandy that tastes spicy, fruity, and bitter, with notes of vanilla and oak. A popular type of Cognac is Hennessy.
  • Armagnac is a more full-flavored, richer French brandy, with notes of dark caramel, chocolate and burnt orange.
  • Calvados is an apple or pear brandy made in France.
  • Brandy de Jerez is Spanish brandy that tastes dry and smooth, with notes of caramel, almond and vanilla.
  • Pisco is also a type of brandy: it’s Peruvian and has a much different flavor profile. We recommend saving that for a classic Pisco Sour, but you could technically use it in a Brandy Crusta.
Brandy Crusta cocktail

Cointreau vs Triple Sec

Just like a Sidecar, a Brandy Crusta uses orange liqueur along with the brandy. You can use any type of orange liqueur here. The nuanced notes of the Cognac pair well with Cointreau, but you can make the drink with Triple Sec too. The original drink calls for orange curacao, but it can be harder to find. Here’s the difference:

  • Cointreau is best in a Brandy Crusta. It’s our favorite in a Sidecar (and a margarita). It has a smooth flavor with warm spices and nuance that works with the sophistication of the brandy.
  • Triple Sec has a crisp, citrus-forward flavor that works well in drinks, but it’s easy to find low quality versions. Look for a quality triple sec brand, not the cheapest on the block; we like Drillauds.

More about maraschino liqueur

The last liqueur you’ll need for a Brandy Crusta is Maraschino liqueur. Don’t be fooled: it’s not the liquid from a jar of maraschino cherries! Here’s what to know about maraschino liqueur:

  • Maraschino liqueur is a clear, cherry flavored liqueur. It was invented in Croatia and is still made there, as well as in Europe and the US. The flavor is mainly dry but lightly sweet, with hints of sour cherry and almond.
  • There are several brands of Maraschino liqueur, the most popular being Luxardo. It should be easy to find at your local liquor store or online.
  • Use up leftovers in classic Maraschino cocktails like the Hemingway Daiquiri, Martinez, Last Word, El Presidente, Division Bell, and the Aviation.
Brandy Crusta drink

How to make a Brandy Crusta

A Brandy Crusta is easy to make: the hardest part is preparing the glass and garnish! Otherwise, you’ll simply shake the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and strain into the prepared glass. The large sugar rim helps to offset the tart flavor, and adds an intriguing texture to the outside of the glass. Here are the basic steps (or jump to the recipe below):

  1. Rim a 2-inch wide section of the glass with superfine sugar. This is what makes it a “Crusta,” and it’s so fun to drink with the bumpy texture. Superfine sugar is key here, since it adheres to the glass best. Don’t try this with granulated sugar: if that’s all you have, run it through a food processor or mortar and pestle until it is very fine.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a large strip of lemon. Cut a long wide peel of the lemon, as long as possible. Place it into the glass so that it curls around inside the glass but part extends above the glass.
  3. Shake in a cocktail shakerTake the brandy, Cointreau, Maraschino, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters, and shake it together in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice cubes.
  4. Strain into a glass and add ice. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Serve with the lemon peel.

And that’s it! We hope you love this drink as much as we do. Let us know in the comments if you try it: it’s incredibly special!

More brandy cocktails

Brandy makes some of the best cocktails (even though we love bourbon, rum, tequila and vodka drinks, too!). Here are some of our top brandy cocktails, Cognac cocktails, and Hennessy drinks to try:

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Brandy Crusta

Brandy Crusta


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5 from 2 reviews

Description

The Brandy Crusta is a classic cocktail boasting a sweet tart flavor with fresh lemon and sophisticated brandy! Garnished with a dazzling sugar crust, it’s easy to make and elegant to sip.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces brandy or Cognac
  • ¼ ounce Cointreau or triple sec
  • ¼ ounce Maraschino liqueur
  • ½ ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Superfine sugar, for the rim
  • Lemon peel, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Use a lemon wedge to moisten the top 2 inches of a stemmed cocktail glass. Place superfine sugar on a plate, then roll the edge of the glass in sugar.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to make a long wide peel of the lemon, as long as possible. Place it into the glass so that it curls around inside the glass but part extends above the glass.
  3. Place the Cognac, Cointreau or triple sec, Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 handful of ice and shake until cold.
  4. Strain the drink into the prepared glass and serve.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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2 Comments

  1. Monica says:

    Made this for Valentine’s Day! It was a hit. Was lazy and used granulated sugar for the rim and it still turned out great! Would love more recipes with maraschino liqueur since I now have a bottle. Thanks!






  2. Sabrina says:

    very nice cocktail, love it, and thank you, a new one for me!