A Crusta is a unique category of drink, one that arose in the 19th Century, likely in New Orleans. They combine a spirit (commonly and most famously brandy), orange liqueur, lemon juice and bitters, which is essentially the same recipe as a sour, like a Margarita or Sidecar. And as much as the recipe is important to the category, so too is its presentation: in order to be considered a Crusta, the drink must be served in a taller, narrow glass with a sugared rim and a large citrus peel curled in the mouth of the glass. The Creole Crusta, from veteran bartender and bar-owner Alba Huerta, taps into the story of the American South, including the dark history of slavery and plantations.
Rather than the more familiar brandy, the base of the Creole Crusta is Demerara rum, which is strictly the rums produced in Guyana (it’s named for a major river that flows through the South American country, not the sugar). In her cocktail book “Julep”—which reexamines and reimagines classic Southern cocktails—Huerta writes that the use of rum was important to the drink, as it was a major aspect of the slave trade in the Americas, with plantation workers often being trafficked from Africa to farm sugar cane. Huerta also gives the drink a toasted benne seed rim as homage to the benne seeds that slaves brought over from Africa, one of the items they were able to cultivate in subsistence gardens. She clarifies that Ansel Mills is the only producer of authentic benne seeds in the United States—however, you can substitute toasted sesame seeds, if needed or desired.
- Toasted and cooled benne seeds*
- Turbinado sugar
- 1 1/2 ounces Demerara rum
- 1/4 ounces Clement Créole Shrubb orange liqueur
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 ounce turbinado sugar syrup (2 parts turbinado sugar, 1 part water)
- 2 dashes Bittercube Bolivar bitters
- Garnish: orange peel
Mix together the turbinado sugar and toasted benne seeds.
Coat the rim of a cocktail glass with lemon juice, and coat it in the sugar and seed mixture.
Add the Demerara rum, Clement Créole Shrubb orange liqueur, lemon juice, Turbinado sugar syrup and Bittercube Bolivar bitters to a shaker filled with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into the rimmed cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange peel.
Toasted benne seeds: Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Spread the benne seeds on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, stirring often, until the seeds are lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.