Throwback to Classic Cocktails: How to Make the Bourbon Crusta

Bourbon CrustaWe covered the classic brandy crusta several weeks ago. The brandy crusta is a wonderful cocktail that many argue led to the creation of the more famous Sidecar. But as brandy is an oaked spirit, you may have wondered how it’s brown brethren like aged rum and bourbon might perform in the crusta. The verdict? The bourbon crusta is amazing! The sweet notes of caramel blend with the oak and fire of the rye to make a lovely twist on the crusta concept.

Bourbon Crusta

  • 1½ ounces Cognac
  • 1 teaspoon Orange Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • rim with sugar
  • garnish with 1″ curl of lemon peel

Begin by filling a cocktail or coupe glass with ice. Then set the glass aside to chill. Now fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the bourbon, orange liqueur, bitters, lemon, and simple syrup. While orange curacao is traditionally used, triple sec will also work quite well. Then shake till its cold to the touch – about 15 seconds. Next dump the ice from the glass and run a lime wedge around the rim. Then dip the rim in sugar – the lemon juice will help the sugar stick to the glass. Finally strain the crusta into the glass and garnish with curl of lemon peel. Optimally the peel should be about 1″ wide and curl around the entire interior circumference of the glass. The visual statement makes the drink recognizable and the taste makes it memorable. While the standard brandy version is good, this bourbon makes it great.

What Bourbon Should I Use in this Bourbon Crusta?

I chose to go with Evan Williams Black Label for this cocktail.  The notes of caramel, spice and oak add a nice profile to compliment the acidity of the citrus in the crusta. If you are looking for a slight step up from Evan Williams, brands like Old Grand-Dad offer a slightly bolder flavor profile for only a little more expense. It should be noted however that Evan Williams is an excellent and inexpensive bourbon in its own right that I often use when I want to make cocktails more affordable. It is also remarkably consistent bottle to bottle. And while it will never stun you, it will also never disappoint.

Another great “upgrade” is Buffalo Trace. Made by the purveyors of the best bourbons on the planet (Stagg, Pappy, you name it, they make it) there are few better “bang-for-the-buck” bourbons.  There are plenty of great cheap bourbons that are even more cost effective though and for big batches, grabbing a couple handles of Evan Williams or my personal favorite McAfee’s Benchmark Old No. 8  (also made by Buffalo Trace) are definitely a good way to go to make this bourbon crusta.

Total cost per drink? ~$0.95


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