This is an unusual one. I did not decide to make this drink. Sure, that’s my kitchen, my glass, my alcohol, but not my handiwork. Some of you may have noticed that I have taken more and more days off from writing lately. I knew it was going to happen as the world has opened up. What can I say, I have been busier. That, and, well, sometimes it is hard to find the words or something valuable to say. That is where family comes in. Noticing that I had not been up to my usual hijinks, they stepped in and made a drink for me. A complicated classic that I had avoided, so, won’t you join us now as we stand and make, the Brandy Crusta.
This is one of the elder drinks, one of the earliest true cocktails. It was created by Joseph Santini in New Orleans in the 1850’s as a riff on the Fancy Cocktail of the day and immortalized in print when Jerry Thomas included it in his 1862 “How to Mix Drinks“. Though it was quite popular for many years, it is now mostly remembered for its complicated garnish, which is also why it no longer shows up on many menus. The classic presentation just takes too much time, when you can just as easily offer its evolutionary offspring, the Sidecar. The drink itself is fairly simple to make, but the prepwork is what had kept it off my counter, until the wife and child decided to take a hand.
The first step is to prepare the glass. You are going to want something with a narrow opening, they chose a champagne flute. Peel a wide swath of lemon peel and trim to fit the inside of this opening. Next, wet the rim of the glass and dip in sugar to coat the inside and out before fitting the lemon peel in place and coating it with sugar as well. Now all we need is a little patience, while this dries to form a sugar “crust” effectively attaching the lemon peel to the glass. Give it an hour or two.
When your glass is ready, grab your tins and pop in 1 3/4 of an ounce of Brandy, I went with Dunill XO; 1/4 ounce of Triple Sec, 1/4 ounce of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, 1/2 an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 ounce of rich simple syrup and 2 dashes each of Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters. Add some artisanal ice and give it a good shake to the beat of Bernadette Peters’ singing Sondheim’s prophetic, “Children Will Listen“. When well chilled, double strain into your prepared flute which you have already garnished.
What is not to love about this one? The sweetness of the sugar rim and triple sec are perfectly balanced by that luxardo, lemon and brandy. There is a depth here that belies the simple build. Naturally, your lemons will make a difference and don’t miss out on the bitters split, they definitely help bring this one home.
Children will listen. What a frightening thought. It is true though. The kid has been here with me most nights, watching as I lay out the tools and ply my questionable craft. He has also been here to notice that I had not been doing it lately. I am not sure what his motives were, but apparently he came home and mentioned it to his mother and then asked her to help him make something for me. That means a lot. Not that the kid understood the ratios or how to use the tools, but that he had that impulse to give. He knew that I really enjoyed creating the drinks, so he worked with her to select something special, prep the glass and have everything out and ready when I got home. He helped me craft this one, asking questions, getting me talking. I have the distinct feeling that I got played here, but I did feel a lot better for the exercise. It was a gift and a not too subtle reminder to take the time to do the things I enjoy. Looks like the kid has been paying attention after all. Be careful what you say, be mindful what you do, children will listen. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.